Is your business in the fast lane?
In this article, the eight in the series – “Is your business in the fast lane?” – I concentrate on the importance of Change Management in helping your businesses reach the fast lane. Subsequent articles focus on other areas to ensure improvement, growth and sustainability of your business.
The importance of change management and ensuring it’s implemented within your organisation starts right at the very top of the organisation with you the Managing Director / CEO and permeates downwards. Hence, the key characteristics of high growth businesses are:
- Setting a vision and values for change and clearly communicating these across the organisation.
- Having clear objectives and making sure that these objectives are aligned with company strategy.
- Creating a motivational environment by engaging with the whole team.
- Growth and associated change should be predicated on profitability and not just turnover or headcount increase.
- Understanding the importance, impact and benefits of every change project.
- Has an engaging and inspirational management team who are seen as agents of change.
- Recognises that continuous improvement is at the heart of the business.
- Are persistent and consistent in their support of agreed changes.
- Actively track the progress of change projects and measure their results.
- Make sure that employees have the right skills for existing and new roles.
- Measure actual business performance against objectives and targets.
Change management requires an informed and thoughtful approach and the detailed schedule implementing change will vary according to both the organisation type, and the type of change that is planned. There are, however, general principles that should be followed and common issues that should be considered when bringing in change in any context.
1. Agree the implementation strategy
Your strategy needs to be clear before you embark on the change. Decide whether the implementation will be top-down, bottom-up, or a mix of both. Consider how communication routes will work and where the key influencers are.
2. Agree the timeframe
Every change programme needs a start date. The timetable must be stretching enough to convey urgency, but attainable enough to be motivating.
3. Draw up detailed implementation plans
Combine the strategy and timetable to draw up detailed implementation plans. Use the change team as a source of advice and consultancy, but empower line managers to determine how they will implement the details of change against the overall goals. For senior management, decide how progress will be monitored and if stage reviews are necessary.
4. Set up a team of stakeholders
The stakeholder team will not necessarily include top management, but will benefit from a board level champion. The team should include the key people involved in designing and delivering the product or service, as well as those receiving it. Stakeholders need to be champions of change, taking new ideas and communicating them effectively in their own parts of the organisation.
5. Establish good programme management
Treat change like any project. Set goals and milestones and monitor progress to keep the programme on schedule and on budget.
6. Communicate clearly
Good communications is essential to the success of change programmes. Do all you can to ensure employees at every level of the organisation understand the reasons for change and know what will be happening. Give regular updates and progress reports.
7. Personalise the case for change
People will only take on board the case for change when they can personalise it and relate it to their own job and team. Ensure line managers translate the corporate case for change into a reality to which every individual in the company can relate.
8. Ensure participation and help to minimise stress
Individual employees must feel they can take ownership of the change programme as it evolves. It is uncertainty rather than change that really worries employees. Provide as much information as possible and quash rumours as soon as they arise.
9. Be prepared for conflict
Change usually brings about conflict of one kind or another, simply because people have different views and reactions. Try to bring conflict to the surface rather than allow it to fester; try to tackle it by examining and analysing it with those who are experiencing it.
10. Be willing to negotiate
When conflict cannot be resolved through improved explanation and discussion, you will have to negotiate and persuade.
11. Create a sense of purpose and urgency to help in tackling those real problems which have prevented progress in the past
Ask what and who may be preventing progress, and who can really help in unblocking it.
Sustained change requires very high levels of motivation. People need to feel valued, to be developed, to have their achievements recognised, and to be challenged. Recognise that different rewards will motivate different people to change.
13. Build skills
View the change programme as a learning process and integrate it into the corporate training programme. Build both technical and soft skills at all levels within the organisation.
14. Build in capability for learning
Creating goals and plans that everyone can subscribe to will mean that everyone can gain.
15. Remember change is discontinuous
Incremental change is a very long process, made up of very small and often invisible modifications to behaviour and attitudes. Seek innovative ways to remind staff of the overall case for change and to reinforce its value to them. Accept that change will be a stop/start process.
16. Monitor and evaluate
Monitor and evaluate the results of the change programme against the goals and milestones established in the original plan. Check that measures are consistent with the vision and goals, and if not, re-design them.
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