In today’s business world organisations have to frequently change to keep up with the dynamic and ever-changing environment. Whether it’s a small change like implementing a new system or a much larger change such a company merger or takeover, the way the change is managed determines success or failure.
Change management is difficult because people are generally not welcoming to change. We (as humans) are creatures of habit and can be sceptical and resistant to anything that threatens the status quo, especially at work. This is why introducing change has to be done in a careful, sensitive and collaborative manner.
Although change management is in full force across all industries, many leaders are unprepared to act upon and put in operation the requirements for change to avoid business interruption. For most organisations, preparedness starts at the top meaning that leadership – at all levels – must have clarity in focus and purpose as well as alignment on resolution, goals and strategic philosophy.
The unfortunate thing is that a lot of organisations are slow to change, as reaching consensus across all levels of leadership is hindered by internal politics – even when change is urgently needed. This results in companies losing momentum as they fail to change quickly enough allowing competitors and the marketplace to pass them by.
The importance of change management
There is general consensus that a company that implements change successfully can create a significant competitive advantage. What most people do not understand though is that not doing so can send a once successful company into a death spiral. Organisations that continuously pursue and embrace change are healthy, growing and very dynamic, while those that fear and avoid change become stagnant entities on their way to an inevitable slow and painful death.
Innovation, agility, commitment, disruption, decisiveness, fluidity, and above all an orientation toward action will lead to change creation. Successful implementation of this change will lead to the creation of a company that evolves, grows and thrives. While most entrepreneurs and executives have accepted the concept of change management as a legitimate business practise, very few organisations have integrated it as a core discipline and focus area in reality.
So what are the steps involved in change implementation? Well, there are three steps involved. When understood, change can be better managed. These are:
- Identification of the need for change. The need for change is present in every organisation. Other than the irrational type of change (changing just for the sake of it) every company needs to change to survive. If your business does not innovate and change in response to market-driven demands and needs, it will fail – plain and simple. What makes change complex is focussing efforts in the right area, for the right reason and at the appropriate times. The ambiguity and risk associated with change can be removed by focussing on three areas:
- Current customers – What do you need to change to serve your customers better?
- Potential customers – What do you need to change to get new customers in a profitable way?
- Corporate culture – What changes are needed to better serve your employees and improve their resources so that they can be able to influence the other two items?
- The Victim; this person views change as a personal attack on their role, their persona, their area of responsibility or their job. Their view of change is very limited and mostly based on how they perceive change will impact them.
- The Neutral Bystander; this person is neither for change nor against it. They will neither vocally oppose it, nor will they proactively get behind it. They’ll just go with the flow and hope to fly below the radar.
- The Critic; this is the person who opposes change. They can either do it covertly or overtly but either way they will derail change by influencing others negatively. Critics must be identified early if you want to succeed in change implementation.
- The Advocate; this person not only embraces change but also evangelises it. Just like the critics, it is important to identify this kind of person early so that you can use them to build the power base for change, give it momentum and enthusiasm. Once you have identified these change constituencies you must involve them if change is to be implemented successfully. Keep in mind that even adversaries can be converted into allies.
- Vision Alignment. Leverage those who share the same vision and convert or neutralise those who don’t.
- Responsibility. All change agents must have a certain level of responsibility for goal achievement.
- Accountability. All change agents must be held responsible for the achievement of their objectives.
- Authority. Change agents must be given the authority to get the job done otherwise they will fail.
Here are some top tips on how to successfully implement change in your organisation:
- Communicate. You need to communicate any change, however, small or large to your employees and explain the rationale behind it. Tell them why it’s important for the change to occur and the benefits to be gained. Pay special attention to employees who will be most affected by the change and allow them to voice their concerns and contribute their views, thoughts and opinions.
- Implement the change in phases. The best way to consume change is in bite sized chunks. So where time is not of the essence break down the change into phases that can be implemented one at a time.
- Evaluate, review and report on change. The entire change process should be carefully monitored to measure its impact and evaluate success. Progress should be communicated to the employees so that they can know where further work is needed.
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