How to successfully implement change in your business, by Matt Keen
In 2012, many companies will be refocusing where their activity takes place and change on some scale seems a certainty. Change management doesn't have to be a complicated, stressful or frightening process. The thing to remember is not to pretend the change isn't happening as this will only lead to problems at a later date. Instead, be open and upfront with people and keep them engaged throughout to ensure that they are behind the change and will support the process. Keeping some simple points in mind will ensure that change can be managed smoothly and simply, whether a major business change or a small alteration.
1. Have a clear vision
Although it sounds like common sense, a key to successfully managing change is to develop a clear vision for why it needs to happen. It is concerning how many companies rely on a vision that is either not well ordered or poorly communicated. When these fundamental issues are poorly constructed, it leads to a lack of buy-in down the organisation.
2. Made leadership visible
Once it is clear what you are doing and why, it is essential to ensure that the top team is aligned in their messages. It is not enough to agree on terms behind closed doors - it is vital that the management team publically says what it is doing and why it is right for the company.
3. Keep people engaged
People of all seniority must be engaged on a two-way level. It is inevitable that any change process will lead to some alteration of daily processes, but keeping employees engaged ensures they will feel valued, appreciated and will be more supportive of the process.
4. Communicate openly and honestly
Senior management often think they are protecting people by not telling them the full situation, but in any organisation the truth gets out, so it is better to be in control of any messages communicated. There is nothing to be gained by pretending change isn't going to happen.
5. Back changes up
All too often companies seem to mistake shuffling people around with real change. Real change must have repercussions for processes, how people work and who they work with. It is far easier for people to revert to what they know rather than change to a new system. Senior managers should help people through the process and give them the time and support required to make the changes.
6. Be disciplined
The people responsible for planning and implementing change must be allowed to stop doing some of their duties in order to focus on the change work. If it all happens on the side of a desk, in-between other daily duties, change will take a long time and the chances of success are much lower.
7. Be flexible
Often, as more is discovered about how projects work, the initial suggestions need to be changed. Therefore, companies need to be fluid and change as more thorough research is conducted. It's key to appreciate that the first solution proposed is not necessarily the "right" solution. Be prepared to change your thinking as the programme moves along.
Matt Keen is an Engagement Manager at Maxxim Consulting. Matt is an expert in strategic business partnering, organisation design and change management working across retail, media and financial services sectors. Matt has worked with clients including John Lewis Partnership, Warburtons and Lancaster University. maxximconsulting.com
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