In today’s world, change management is an essential part of business. Globalization and advancements in technology have created a fast-paced, “eat or be eaten” business environment where change is required to survive. In the words of Peter Drucker, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Think about the executives of Blockbuster who nixed a deal to buy Netflix for $50 million. Netflix’s 2018 Q3 revenue was just over $4 billion and Blockbuster is now defunct. Blockbuster could still be in business if they were not making decisions with yesterday’s logic. What worked yesterday, may not work today, which means change must be an essential part of your operating culture. Knowing that change is essential is one thing, creating change is another. Here are 5 tips to succeed in change management.
- Clearly identify the need and vision for change. Why do you need to change? What are the consequences of not changing? Once you understand the need, then create the vision of change. What is the end goal of change? What does it look like? Taking time to understand the needs and vision will help you determine the approach and change management strategy you implement. Too often companies make the mistake of changing just to change without knowing why and what they are changing and the benefit they are hoping to achieve. This can result in employee disengagement, customer dissatisfaction, and decreased profitability because you may be changing the wrong things or do not know the direction you are going. Invest your time and resources to understanding what change is needed and what the ideal vision would look like once complete. Consider this the change-management pre-work.
- Create a strategy and follow it. Too often organizations create the strategy but then fail to follow the process. Leadership can be so excited to implement the change that they may cut corners or forgo essential steps of the process just to say “we did it, we implemented the change.” The end result of not following the process can be employee confusion, increased resistance to change, and a failure to actually make a change. Be flexible with the process, meaning allow room to account for new learnings, but do not skip steps.
- Focus on the people. Identify who they are, how the change will impact them, what their role in change will be, and why their role is important. Every person needs to be addressed and considered in the change strategy. Once you have identified the people component, start by aligning the top-level leadership team as they will be the champions of change. If these individuals are not in alignment with the change, they are unlikely to promote the change and may avoid taking action to prevent its failure. Once top-level leadership is aligned, move to the mid-level managers, those that will likely be responsible for the majority of people implementing the change. They too are the champions of change. They will need to understand the specifics of the strategy as to how it relates to the people they manage. The better they are to communicate and advocate for the change, the more the people they manage will be willing to change.
- Identify the barriers to change. Will there be a learning curve? A fear of jobs being eliminated? Think about the objections from your employee’s perspective. When you understand how they see it you will be able to address the concerns head-on. For example, if people think they will lose their job as a result of the change, they are more likely to resist the change. If possible, address the fear of losing the job and offer reassurance and the option to ask questions about the change. Create a safe space for people to talk about change so you can address the objections head on.
- Measure and celebrate. Identify key milestones of change that need to be measured to determine future success and next steps. When you achieve a milestone, celebrate it! Change is difficult and to continue to invest the time and resources needed to make the change, people need to feel that their hard work is worth it. Take every milestone as an opportunity to celebrate and reinforce commitment to the change.