In today’s fast moving environment, any business that is looking for the pace of change to slow down is likely to be disappointed. From digitisation to mobility, ‘appification’ and the inexorable rise of social media, change has become an accepted part of how we do business today. In fact, businesses should be embracing change. Without constant evolution, companies are likely to find themselves lagging behind as their competitors take over.
But change is tough and habits are hard to break. Just ask anyone who has tried to give up smoking! How much more difficult must it be for an organisation to change? Consider the number of moving parts, the number of individual workers and the different departments – and that’s before even accounting for outside factors such as the economy or technological advances. From team restructuring, to investing in growth or winning a piece of new business – every organisational milestone is a precursor of change. So how can companies make their own evolutionary processes easier?
It may seem obvious but the first step involved in organisational change is to prepare for it. In other words: plan for versatility. To build the right kind of momentum and really prepare for any major shift, business leaders have to understand their external environments and align their internal capabilities. The more flexible a team, the better-prepared it will be for dealing with factors beyond its immediate control. Successful change management procedures allow a company to move forward with less hesitation.
Planning has a secondary benefit - people prepare for a change when they have early visibility of - or are involved in - the planning activities. Winning staff buy-in early will reap dividends later as people are more inclined to change their behaviours if they feel they have been involved in the decision making process. Successful change strategies involve an intricate understanding of change enablers and drivers. A holistic roadmap is both a good planning tool and a way of tracking progress.
Since successful change management brings all affected parties onboard and requires them to participate in making changes successful, it helps inter-departmental teambuilding, so that there is buy-in from employees across an organisation. The next step is to assemble a change team to help develop the change program and ensure its success. For maximum effectiveness, this team should include a mix of people from across the organisation and not be limited to a single discipline within the organisation.
Assess whether there are there extra training or development opportunities that will support the process. If people are being moved around and new responsibilities being assigned, leaders should consider offering training to these employees. Allow for extra time working with managers and supervisors on how to identify employees who are having a hard time with the change. Run a course for first-time managers to help them learn how to manage their teams through change. These efforts can be done in-house, through a consulting firm, or through online training.
Finally, make sure the change actually happens. Many organisations start a change process, begin to implement it, and then lose momentum as other tasks take priority. But if you're able to improve your IT infrastructure, business processes, and the uptime, safety, and security of your data through change and transformation then your organisation will see an increase in business growth as a result.
It’s important to maintain the momentum after the initial ‘change excitement’ dims. This is where many companies drop the ball, and when paradigm shifts occur, those who hesitate are often the ones who lose.