Adopting the right approach to change management is vital for any business and will help to mitigate challenges and risks. If you rush change and fail to communicate it effectively, it can lead to disruption and reduced moral with your staff. But with careful management and transparent communication, you can deliver successful change without the challenge.
But what exactly is change management and how do you implement it successfully? This guide will help you understand the importance of change management, how to get it right and how it can be implemented.
What is change management?
Any business will experience some kind of change on a daily basis. The form this change takes can range from a slight tweak to a process, to large-scale changes to business models and product designs.
While organisations may make small tweaks constantly, you might be surprised to hear that larger changes happen almost as frequently.
Though they’re incredibly common, many change management projects fail. But the reasons and factors causing these projects to fail can be hard to pin down.
What drives the need to change within a business?
There are a variety of factors that can drive an organisation towards making changes. These can come from both internal and external sources and may include:
- Customer pressure
- Changes to legislation
- New technology
- Company mergers
- Acquisitions and competition
Whether you face one of these drivers or a mix, you may want to create a change programme to respond.
What external factors can force changes to a business?
External drivers are often economic factors. The speed of innovation in all sectors is constantly increasing and the marketplace is ever evolving, leaving no place for a stagnant enterprise. Change, whether planned or reactive, is essential for companies to move their businesses forward.
What internal factors can force changes to a business?
Whether it’s about improving organisational effectiveness, performance or achieving a new strategic direction or organisational goal, change can be driven by internal pressures and objectives. Many of these internal drivers are created by employees who are also critical in delivering the change they create in the first place.
What change management models could I use for my small to medium-sized business?
The research community has developed a range of theoretical change management models that can offer help organizations to enact change successfully. The most commonly adopted one is Lewin’s three-step model.
What is Lewin’s three-step model?
Kurt Lewin devised a model that sees the change process as involving three steps. Lewin’s model assumes all organisations have a stable position. From there, change is about implementing initiatives that move away from the current stable position, shifting the organisation towards new desired behaviours, then securing those behaviours. This can be summarised as:
- Step one – Readiness. Readiness measures how receptive your organisation is to change
- Step two – Adoption. Adoption is the process of accepting the changes. This is the part of the process that is often chaotic in nature.
- Step three – Institutionalisation. Institutionalisation is where changes become fully embedded and emerge as the new norm for employees.
How can employers ensure successful implementation of change?
Individual workers will hold perceptions and biases that can affect their attitude towards change initiatives within the workplace. If these are not properly managed, those resistant to change could force the initiative to fail. That’s why it’s essential to manage change effectively at both the organisational level and individual worker level.
Simple considerations can reduce employee resistance. These include:
Anticipate employee expectations
Employees’ expectations and perceptions can be anticipated and with careful communication businesses can help employees have a better experience with they change management plan.
Mitigate employee stress
Change can bring adverse consequences for the employee, including emotional and psychological stress. Managing the change process to mitigate stress is vital for success. You can do this by ensuring every important stakeholder in the organisation is involved.
Involve workers and be transparent
You can involve workers by using staff surveys, workshops, round table sessions, and nominating change champions within the business. All these activities encourage employees to take an active part in the process – making them far more likely to embrace it.
Take stock of the vision
The very first step of a successful change involves identifying the need for change. The next step is to clearly articulate this vision.
To do this, you’ll need to conduct a thorough audit to determine where you are now, where you want the business to be, and where the gaps that need a change are.
Maintain staff morale throughout the change
Possibly the most difficult part of weathering changes is maintaining staff levels of engagement. The success of any change programme will depend on how businesses keep employees motivated during the change.
Review and refocus
Most change programmes are designed to future-proof a business. But a single period of change only keeps an organisation forging ahead for so long. To ensure the benefits of change continue, it’s important to continually review progress and refocus the vision where necessary.
But how do I overcome a resistance to change?
To overcome resistance to change, businesses might need to employ a variety of strategies, including:
- Education and learning. Educate staff on why the change is required and give them the skills to deal with the change and the future new normal.
- Participation and involvement. Make sure that staff feel involved. Alienated staff will resist change at all levels.
- Facilitation and support the change. There’s nothing worse for employees than an enforced change to their workplace or role that is unsupported by management. Help your people weather the change storm by supporting them through the process.
- Negotiate with staff and be open to tweaking the change to suit their needs too.
Change in the workplace is a necessary but disruptive experience. It is also often vital for the success of a company.
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