7 Key Factors for Successful Change Management
Businesses change constantly – it’s the nature of a competitive marketplace. Regardless of the industry in which an organisation operates, at some point it will likely have to undergo some level of change in order to position itself as a market leader. Effective change management in business can be a complicated process to undertake successfully.
This can be particularly true after the level of change most, if not all of us, have had to manage to some extent in the past two years due to the pandemic. Major adjustments to the way in which a business operates or provides its products and services must be carefully managed.
How to manage change successfully
There are several different ways to manage change effectively in the workplace – but here are just a few key tips that the experts would recommend if you’re looking to lead your business through a change process.
Plan for change
Before undertaking any change, a business needs to have a clear and valid reason and mission for the change process. Make sure any undertaking, no matter its size or impact, is realistic, measurable and achievable. There is no use in creating a difficult situation if there is no significant gain to be made for the organisation or its stakeholders.
Start with the end in mind – make plans according to your overall goals, and ensure that all staff are also able to see exactly where an organisation is heading throughout a change process. A solid direction makes employees more likely to accept and embrace changes.
Communicate the why and how of change
The most important factor in changing anything within a business, small or large, is to communicate the change and its many factors, to the key stakeholders within the organisation – staff, first and foremost, but also outside stakeholders like shareholders and consumers.
There is no perfect or fool-proof way to communicate change within a business setting. But there are a few key rules to remember for communicating change:
- Keep it simple – avoid using unnecessary jargon and buzz phrases. Make it clear to staff and stakeholders what it is that will change in their day-to-day involvement with the business.
- Be open and prompt – if announcements are delayed, rumours and leaks can arise. Ensure that all staff are able to access information from a reliable and authoritative source.
- Monitor quantity vs. quality – the old adage “you can’t communicate too much” is often found in business, but it’s important to ensure that whatever is communicated to staff is substantial and of interest to the audience. Insignificant information is just likely to frustrate an organisation’s employees and stakeholders. It’s important to keep all stakeholders well informed, but be careful that the signal doesn’t get lost in the noise.
- Open up communication channels – ensure that all stakeholders have several avenues where they can ask questions, voice concerns or make recommendations. Make the leadership team available and present.
If it’s possible for the change program of your business to be adjusted, then open up your plans for consultation with your stakeholder groups. Because your staff have direct experience with your products, services and customers, they are likely to have valuable information and suggestions to offer to a proposed change.
Providing key stakeholders with the opportunity to have some influence over the change – or how the change management process is run – also increases the likelihood that they will be on board with the change and invested in its success.
If the change in an organisation is related to a merger or acquisition, or something equally beyond the control of a manager, then it is best to ensure that staff and stakeholders do not feel excluded from the change process.
Motivate staff to embrace change
One of the biggest challenges to managing change effectively comes in the form of motivation. How are you meant to motivate staff when there are major changes occurring within an organisation?
Unfortunately, some changes are not necessarily beneficial – in tough economic circumstances, implementing changes like mergers or downsizing can create an unmotivated environment in some businesses. Ensure that your organisation finds a way to connect with its staff and provide motivation for staff to continue working and contributing to the business.
Embrace change with confidence
Staff are often guilty of reverting to old ways throughout a change process – regardless of whether it’s otherwise managed effectively or not. A change process needs to be organisation wide to succeed, so have faith in the changes being implemented and show your trust by limiting opportunities for staff to revert to their old habits.
If your organisation is changing a procedure, then ensure that the new procedure is followed closely. If your business is implementing a new computer system, ensure that there is minimal access to the previous system. If your company is changing attitudes across the organisation, create a system that can catch any instances of old attitudes.
Create space for people to adjust
Change can bring increased workloads in many organisations, especially if there are changes to technology or company procedure. As a manager in a change situation, be mindful that if you are changing the way in which your staff operate or produce work, they may be less efficient than they previously were – simply because they are most likely learning new habits again.
Change can be a lengthy process, so ensure that people are supported – expect delays and deficiencies as employees learn. If the change is well-planned then you will likely more than make up for any short-term inefficiencies in the longer-term.
Throughout a change management situation, it’s crucial that the organisation, its passage through the change program, and the wider organisation’s reactions to that change program are evaluated at every feasible opportunity. Measure KPIs, ask for feedback from staff and make any required revisions to the original plans – changes should be flexible where necessary to protect the business, its staff, and its brand. Evaluation can occur in many different ways, and at many different stages – choose whichever evaluation tools and strategies work effectively for your business and situation.
Effective change management is not one size fits all
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that every organisation and situation will have their own requirements and challenges. While these are just a few key factors that can help guide organisations through change management processes successfully, there may be others that apply to you.
Have you been in a situation involving significant business changes? How did you approach it – or alternatively, how would you approach it as a leader?
This article was originally written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business and revised in January 2021. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Change Management, Sources of Insight, Inc. and Harvard Business Review.