A small pebble in a pond can cause a very big wave. A seemingly small change in your business can have far reaching repercussions. Whether you’re looking to introduce a new system, process, changes to people’s roles or your organisational structure, this often leads to a different way of working. Poorly managed change can cause resentment and conflict, as well as affecting people’s own self-worth and how they value their role within the business.
The Change Curve is a popular model used to determine people’s reactions to change, which originated from a theory developed by Kubler-Ross in 1969. In the early stages, people may go through a range of reactions and emotions, such as denial, blame, fear, confusion and uncertainty, before they move onto acceptance and rationalisation. Therefore, it’s important to consider how your people will react to any type of change you are looking to implement.
Managing change successfully involves recognising who will be affected and how they will be affected, while maintaining productivity and minimising the impact on your workforce. In this article, we offer some pointers to help you manage change. First, let’s look at some common issues that can arise when change is not considered thoughtfully:
Rolling out new systems or processes
Consider a company that is set to roll out a new cloud-based invoicing system. The roll out is being driven by one person because they feel the new system will suit their objectives and those of the company. However, this person has decided not to involve anybody else from within the business. So, what can happen here is that you end up with a system that’s working well for one department, leaving the rest of the business struggling to work in a new way. From their perspective, as they’ve not been involved in any discussions, the rest of the business cannot see what has been gained through this change. A lack of communication can lead to the system not being used effectively, wasting valuable company time and resources.
As a direct result of a poorly managed change to a system or process, people may become frustrated, demotivated, and potentially fearful about having to learn a new technology. They may no longer be the expert in a particular area and start to question their own self-worth and role within the company. These feelings of frustration can often trickle down to the frontline, affecting customer relationships.
A more effective way for the original sponsor to manage this change, would be to start with relationship management and effective communications. They could have introduced the idea company-wide, getting the buy in from everybody at every level who will be affected by the change. This could have begun with an initial conversation to explain what’s going to happen, listen to their concerns, and to take any ideas from those who will be using the system. People can become really motivated when they feel they are being involved in the development of new systems, processes and procedures. This also helps to embed the new change into the existing business processes and ways of working.
When a sponsor will only do it their way
A common issue can arise when a sponsor is so invested in a new system or organisational change, they only want to implement this in their own way. When a sponsor is overly invested into an idea, they may not wish to listen to other’s ideas and may become uncooperative. The sponsor’s attitude then has a knock-on effect to the business in terms of people’s motivation and performance, which in turn can affect client relationships and the bottom line. This type of scenario can have a serious impact on a small company, where you’re never too far away from the frontline.
The key to managing change successfully is when a sponsor stops and thinks, “I want to make a change, so I’m going to run it as a project from start to end” – even if it’s a small change. The sponsor thinks about another person’s perspective and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Key questions could include, “How do I create motivation for change? What’s new and what will be learned from changes already in place? How will the new change be incorporated into the ongoing culture?” The sponsor is able to see how their proposed change might affect different people across the business. Schein’s model of change 1992 is a useful tool to refer to in this situation.
Before you embark on any change to your business, consider the following questions:
- What is the reason for the change?
Reflect on the purpose of the change and the need for it to happen. Consider whether the change is aligned to your company vision and where there may be certain pain points.
- Who will sponsor and manage the change?
Even if you are only planning a small change, this will still require a dedicated resource to manage the tactical application and facilitation of all aspects of the change. A productive and efficient approach needs to be both cost and time effective.
- What do we need to do?
Map out the proposed change from start to finish. Consider how you can manage the change positively, along with maintaining your business productivity and profit margin.
- What are the benefits?
The change needs to add value and result in a good return on investment. Even if the change is to introduce a new streamlined system, consider the true cost of the system in terms of any disruption and people training.
- Is it just a small change?
Remember a small change can have big consequences. Whether it’s a small change needing a small amount of training, or a larger change with a large amount of training and development, always set up a project no matter the size.
- Have you considered the impact on your business relationships?
Who is it going to impact? Will it impact your customers, suppliers, or just internal people? Introducing a different way of working can have an enormous impact on the workforce. Talk to every stakeholder who will be affected by the change to ensure this has a positive not adverse effect on the business.
- Is there enough time to carry out the change?
A rushed, poorly managed change project could lead to disastrous consequences for your business. Even if you want to make a quick change with little cost, a lack of planning can lead to greater, wasted costs in the long run.
- What’s the cost of the change to the business if it doesn’t go to plan?
Consider your options if there are risks that appear to outweigh the benefits. Creating a robust business resilience plan upfront will help to remove the uncertainty that a change project can bring.
- What will be different once the change is in place?
Assess the outcome of the change. What will different look like? This includes the effect on your business infrastructure and the relationships with your people, suppliers, customers and shareholders.
- How do you make the change ‘stick’ once it’s in?
Ensuring you have the right level of training and development set up to help people work effectively after the change takes place will help the longevity of the change.
As a change management specialist, our focus is on helping you develop and manage your business relationships by having open-minded conversations. We offer an expert, outside perspective with an impartial view in the form of external facilitation. Using a collaborative approach, our process involves a ‘change journey’. Together, we will help you facilitate a positive and successful change for your business. Get in touchfor details.