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How Well Are You Responding To Change?

| | Graham Jenkins
How Well Are You Responding To Change?

Today’s business landscape is inundated with established organisations feeling the intense pressures of disruptive new players in their markets. We nearly lost Kodak, for example, Aldi is growing fast and Uber is causing all manner of disturbance in the taxi sector.

Many organisations fail to look for new things that their customers want because they are afraid of damaging their core business.

Change has always been a challenge for businesses, and the willingness to lead these developments on the frontline can be a difficult task for leaders to manage. Now, however, change is moving at a more rapid pace than ever before. In many cases, this is forcing organisations to reconsider their management structures, the products and services they offer and their overall position in the market.

When it comes down to it, organisations have two choices. They can either react to the change and become the disrupters, or they can ignore it, carry on as usual and be disrupted themselves.

What role do leaders have when managing change?

Leaders need to have a strong understanding of change management before guiding an organisation through the process. Often, it’s not the actual change itself that trips up an organisation, but rather the way that it is managed by the people in power.

Assurance is at the core of the change management process. Employees need to have confidence in the events that are occurring, and the organisation’s structure must facilitate these new developments.

Making the situation more difficult is the fact there’s no universal strategy for change that will guarantee success. However, there is a set of guidelines which can put leaders on the right path and get them thinking in the correct terms.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders often make is assuming they have to sell change to their organisation. It might seem effective in the short term, but when leaders attempt to sell change to their employees there is always a group who accept it on the surface but deep down aren’t comfortable with the way things are unfolding.

However, data can be your friend.

With that in mind, what should leaders do to ensure they’re managing change effectively?

1. It’s about the big picture

Businesses exist within a wider industry full of competitors and potential disrupters. Be courageous when identifying areas of your operations that could be changed. Keep an eye on other organisations within the industry that could be making the same moves.

2. Start with data

It’s important to have tangible data which directs a strategy and reinforces upcoming decisions. Group together relevant changes and decisions that need to be made together so you get an idea of how they will impact each other. Create presentations that explain the positive impacts this transformation will have on the business.

3. Share your findings

Gather feedback about your proposal from executives, managers and an external peer group, if you have one. Managers need to understand how change may or may not affect their role in the business.

4. Match organisational needs with leadership vision

After consulting managers and executives and getting them on board, reveal the change plan to the rest of the staff. This needs to be done at least 60 days before the intended changes occur. A feedback window such as this enables employees to have time to consider what it means to them and give criticism accordingly.

5. Train your workforce

Around 30 days before any changes are put into place, it’s time to start training employees. The more interactive this process is and the more opportunities for feedback there are, the better prepared yourself and your staff will be.

6. Prototype the change

Approximately two weeks before the changes are set to go live, roll out a prototype model so employees can prepare for when these new developments debut.

7. Make the change

Ensure there are relevant KPIs in place that measure the success of the process. Try and minimise surprises and ignore the damaging inputs of yes-men. Leave yourself open for straight-talking and open feedback.

While there’s no universal solution for businesses looking to make drastic changes to the way they operate, these guidelines give leaders an idea of the challenges they are likely to encounter, and what they need to do to have the best chance of success.

Graham JenkinsBy Graham Jenkins, TEC Chair

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