No business can escape the inevitability of change; rather, all we can do is handle it gracefully and make the most out of what’s to come. Understanding the fundamental principles of effective change management can make your business’s next big pivot go over smoothly.
What is Change Management?
The term “change management” refers to the process through which – you guessed it – change is managed and implemented. This is an umbrella term, under which various techniques fall. The exact way that you and your company utilize change management should be personal to your business’s goals and philosophies.
The core idea behind change management is that change should be embraced head-on rather than avoided. By placing focus on the changes at hand and openly communicating change with employees, you open the doors to opportunity and the changes at hand become less intimidating for everyone on board.
It’s no big secret that some of the world’s most famously successful businesses capitalized on changes. That same level of adaptability, often regarded as their primary source of success, can be achieved through proper change management.
Implementing Change Management
Change management boils down to active participation in the preparation for the upcoming changes as well as strategizing at each turn to ensure that the change is going well. Using these 7 rules as a guideline can steer you in the right direction.
1. Define Your Goal
First and foremost, you need to have a thorough understanding of the exact goal these changes will achieve for your company. It’s impossible to get directions without a destination. Likewise, you need an ideal result in mind in order to define success and map your way there.
There are several ways to go about this. The first thing you should do is identify the type of change you’re looking to implement. In most cases, there are three unique types of change your company may undergo: developmental change, transitional change, and transformative change.
a. Developmental Change
Developmental changes alter the way that previously established systems work. This type of change is usually agreed upon once it’s been discovered that old techniques and procedures are no longer effective, or that a better, newer alternative might be possible.
This type of change is very similar to a transitional change, except in this case the previous methods are being honed and improved upon rather than eventually left behind. For example, McDonald’s, now a renowned major company, established its very first drive-thru in 1975. Although it was a resounding success, McDonald’s still offers the opportunity to sit-in and eat instead.
b. Transitional Change
Transitional changes focus on making the switch from one less effective process to a new, alternative process. In this situation, unlike developmental change, the old methods and systems have been proven ineffective and will be entirely replaced. With transitional change, the goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible.
c. Transformative Change
Transformative change refers to change that radically and fundamentally alters the way your business operates and/or engages with the consumer. This type of change requires the most time, patience, and determination to properly implement, and should be considered carefully before you jump right in.
Transformative change often happens when a company pivots. A pivot is defined as a sudden change in direction. For example, Netflix originally relied on a mail-in DVD rental service. As technology advanced, Netflix adapted and began offering its paid streaming subscription instead. This was a massive change in business model for Netflix, but if they hadn’t done it, they wouldn’t be as successful as they are today.
Identifying the goal of your change is just as critical as managing it along the way. Once you know what your ideal end result will be, or at least have an idea of what you’re looking for, the rest can fall into place.
2. Assess Potential Obstacles
Even in the world of business, no journey comes without unexpected obstacles and delays. Although you can’t entirely prevent these things from happening, it’s important to try and be prepared for whatever you can.
Brainstorm with your team about what potential issues may reasonably arise during the process of these changes. You may be surprised at how many flaws your original plan contains. For each obstacle you and your team predict, try to outline a general strategy or a backup plan you can implement, just in case. You want these changes to have a solid foundation so that one snag doesn’t unravel your progress.
3. Organize a Team
Identify the great thinkers at your disposal and assemble a capable team. Change management is a massive undertaking, even for small businesses, and you’ll need all the help you can get. Form a group of individuals who you can trust to manage various aspects of the change implementation such as day-to-day issues, relevant market research, and any other roles you deem necessary.
Coaching your team members has been proven effective in boosting morale, providing support, and increasing the success rate of those changes. Your job is not only to encourage your team and provide them with the resources they need, but it’s also to act as their leader and to inspire them.
4. Implement the Plan
Massive organizational changes don’t happen overnight. The implementation of company changes, even with the aid of a team, will require time and patience. It’s important to be resilient and persistent, and not to give up at the first sign of trouble. Conversely, confronting issues as they arise will allow you to fine-tune your ideas as you see them work in real-time.
The truth is, even just moving toward a goal in change management puts you ahead of the competition. Many companies fizzle out due to a lack of flexibility – so being willing to change direction is a huge testament to your company’s potential longevity. Use milestones and goal tracking to ensure that you’re making the right moves at the right time.
5. Encourage and Utilize Feedback
Sometimes, running a business can feel a lot like you’re a scientist working in a lab. You develop a hypothesis, test it, and experiment by seeing how it performs in the field. In the case of company changes, the experimentation phase doesn’t end at the consumer’s perception of your strategy.
It’s critical to collect feedback not only from the consumer as they’re introduced to this change, but also from your employees. Feedback takes many forms. For example, even if sales decrease after a change, that is a form of feedback from which you should draw information.
Here are some ways you can collect feedback as you implement change:
- Periodic team meetings
- Anonymous customer feedback surveys
- Analyze consumer behavior (clicks, likes, etc.)
- Utilize social media
- Keep an employee suggestion box
6. Communicate and Reward Progress
Instead of stressing yourself out over every minor detail of the process, focus on the value of progress. Progress isn’t always linear. Sometimes, a setback occurs which was actually necessary in order to reveal a flaw in your company’s strategy. When this happens, try to keep your team from feeling discouraged and place emphasis on the progress that was made.
Studies show that tracking progress toward a goal makes it twice as likely that you’ll succeed, and the corporate world is no exception to this. Reward milestone accomplishments to encourage your employees to keep up their hard work.
7. Modify the Strategy as Needed
The name of the game in change management is adaptability. You should experience little attachment to your original plan, as it’s highly likely it’ll change as time goes on and different factors come into play. You may also have employees who are resisting change as well. If your plan heads south, don’t double down or try to resist the flow. Instead, be open-minded and willing to change your strategy.
Change management can be time-consuming and difficult. But, if executed properly, it’s worth it almost every time. Flexibility and willingness to change are critical characteristics that will keep your company ahead of the competition for years to come.