There is no doubt, change will happen in your business. As a matter of fact, it should happen.
If you want your business to remain competitive, relevant, and successful, remaining idle is not the way to achieve this. Change fosters innovation and creates an environment where skill and talent development thrive. New technologies, new competitors, new challenges always arise; and businesses that adapt to these triggers will far outlast those that fear transition.
However, even companies that embrace change do not always manage that change effectively. According to this online article on the Harvard Business School Online's Business Insights Blog, ‘approximately 50 percent of all organizational change initiatives are unsuccessful, highlighting why knowing how to plan for, coordinate, and carry out change is a valuable skill for managers and business leaders alike.’ An effective change management process, therefore, is crucial to a business.
What is change management? Wikipedia defines it as, “a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.” There are many proven models of change management, including Lean Change Management, Kurt Lewin's 3-Step, John Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change, to name a few. However, for small businesses learning and implementing these models may not be feasible or realistic. Therefore, we compiled a list of the critical steps needed to effectively implement change in any organization, regardless of the organization’s size, budget, or available resources.
Prepare for Change
This step is about making your organization understand what the change will be and why it is important. Being honest about the challenges your company will face as a result of not moving forward with that change provides your employees the ability to truly appreciate why the change must take place. In addition, outlining the benefits and how it will help the organization and, perhaps even more importantly, the employees will help you to gain buy-in, confidence, and excitement.
This is also the time to answer questions, address concerns, and meet 1:1 with the team members who will be most affected by the change. It’s extremely important that your team members feel heard and supported throughout the process.
Design a Roadmap/Set Goals
This is one of the most critical steps in change management. When creating change, it is important to break down the entire scope of the project into small, manageable steps. Creating a timeline is a must. Not only should there be a project deadline, but creating “mini” deadlines for different phases of the project will help you stay on track and make tweaks along the way to ensure success.
Assigning a project manager may also be beneficial to the outcome of the project. Is there an employee who is looking to take on new responsibilities and develop additional skills? That may be a great person to ask to assist you in leading the project and overseeing it through completion. If everyone is stretched thin, consider putting together a committee that oversees different aspects of the project. This step also allows you to determine if you can handle the project internally or if you may need to hire external help to get it accomplished. Furthermore, laying out the scope of the project will also help you to determine if you can realistically tackle this project now, in the future, or not at all.
Create KPIs. Doing so also helps employees stay on track and gives the leadership metrics by which they can measure the success of the project and if they are meeting their goals and deadlines.
Communication is KEY to the success of the project, and should be done EVERY step of the way. This communication should be done in both an informal and formal manner. Determine the best form of communication for your team. Is it via email, a weekly “town hall” meeting, or a podcast? Whatever the method, it is important to keep your entire team in the loop and informed. Share both the successes and the challenges. Solicit feedback and ideas from your team members. Make sure the communication is timely, detailed, and is two-way. Employees will feel better about the change if they feel they are being heard throughout the project.
Implement the Plan
Once you have buy-in and a roadmap in place, it is now time to implement the change. Follow the plan you have laid out, but remember to be flexible. Roadblocks and challenges will come up. Be ready to navigate them as best as you can. Empower your employees. Celebrate the wins. Support them each step of the way. Make sure goals, deadlines, and objectives are being met throughout the project.
Measure the Results/Analyze the Wins & Losses
Once the change is complete, it’s time to analyze the project. Was it a success, a failure, or somewhere in between? What worked? What didn’t work? What could you have done better? This analysis helps you to learn from some of the mistakes you may have made and build upon the successes. Doing a deep dive into the analysis will help create a more efficient and smooth plan to use the next time you implement change.
Celebrate, Reward, & Recognize
Regardless of whether your analysis deems the change successful or not, celebrate the end of the project! It is important to recognize the hard work and the additional responsibilities your team members took on as a result of the change. We would also encourage you to celebrate the little wins throughout the entire project. Set mini goals throughout the project timeline, and if those goals are achieved, do something fun for your employees. These small rewards along the way will keep your employees motivated and engaged!