When you run a business, it is inevitable that you will need to make changes in order to keep up with the times and adjust to differing circumstances. As an organizational leader, the higher ups in a company will not only need to implement change but see it through to a solid implementation so that it takes full effect.
Change in business is usually categorized as either adaptive (for example, reacting to changes in the supply-demand dynamic or available office space) or transformative (for example, changing the inner workings of a company to expand into a new country or adding a completely different product offering to stay in line with competition).
Steps for Successful Change
In order to move from the original conditions to the accomplished goal, there are five steps to implementing an effective and solid change management process. Harvard Business School lists five steps to become successful: Preparation, Planning, Implementation, Embedment, and Review/Analyzation. These steps are detailed below.
This step could also be called “communication.” Speaking to the employees and gaining their input and support is one of the most important parts of implementing change.
Although the upper management will ultimately make the decisions, including the majority of the employees in the process will help ensure that they have a positive energy and are invested in helping effect changes.
Once the communication and psychological preparation has been laid out, the logistical half of the preparation can take place with a sound foundation that is less likely to breed frustration or negative attitudes later on in the process.
Strategic and detailed planning will help ensure that every team member is on the same page and that there are concrete goals that can be checked off throughout the process.
A solid plan should have specific goals, indicators to measure success, roles and responsibilities of each team member, and a description of the scope and sequence of the project.
There should also be a section of the plan that details potential roadblocks or hurdles and initial ideas for how to overcome these.
An initial plan does not have to be static; rather, it should be dynamic, able to be adjusted as it goes along. All parties should understand that new goals and plans will be a part of the process as initial goals are evaluated and roadblocks are overcome.
Implementation is where the real change starts to take place. This can be an exciting and morale-boosting part of organizational change, as all employees start to see the benefits and possibilities of their work and ideas.
Implementation should go off fairly easily if the planning stage was executed and communicated in detail and with confidence.
During this stage, management will be responsible for checking in with employees and overseeing the sequence of the project, as well as anticipating conflict and aiding the company in navigating new issues that arise.
Instead of micromanaging, however, those in charge of the project should empower employees to use their skills and expertise to implement the project initiatives with confidence. This stage is also where it is important to recognize and encourage early, small wins, which bolster the morale of the entire team.
In an ideal situation, the employees would take implemented policies and structural changes and move forward without looking back. However, old habits are comfortable, and it is human nature to finish a task or project and then go back to what is known.
Thus, the change managers must be proactive about ensuring that the company members do not backslide or revert to old ways. Backsliding can mean a great deal of resources and energy devoted to turning people back in the forward-looking direction, so if it is known from the get-go that the new change policies will be the status quo, then it can prevent a “one step forward two steps back” pattern.
A company can use strategies such as printed copies of new systems, rewards, and acknowledgements of change to prevent backsliding and move the company into a working comfort and success with the new program.
Review and Analyzation
The final step in successful change is to look at the completed project as a whole and discuss whether the initial goals and check-offs were met. A truly successful initiative is not necessarily one that was completed, but one that was undertaken and worked into the culture and systems of the company.
What were the insights gained and lessons learned? What were the hurdles overcome that could be addressed from the beginning next time?
There are plenty of roadblocks that can occur when trying to implement an effective change management process. Read on to learn about what you can expect and how to manage the negative effects of these hurdles.
Diversification of Teams
Oftentimes, a large project may need specific teams to tackle specialized projects. This can seem overwhelming for one or two managers to oversee. Delegation and strong communication can help ensure that everyone is on the same page. Standard operating procedures can also make sure that production stays steady.
One Change Affecting Another
When a project is affected by multiple departments, progress or struggle in one could mean a ripple effect to the rest of the sections. The systems in a workplace should be all-inclusive, encouraging consistency across all work areas.
Similar to the above section, if one area of a workplace is changing and it does not carry over seamlessly to the rest of the departments, people will be confused and frustrated. All parties should have access to the necessary information, including new plans and strategies, wins and rewards, and honest assessments.
Resistance from Employees
Hopefully, the organizational change will have begun with solid communication, but there might still be reluctance and hesitation.
We can detail readiness for change in six parts: ambivalence, rejection, expression of doubt, neutral state, experimenting, and committing.
These phases can be moved through more easily with extensive communication from the beginning, as detailed in the ‘Planning’ stage.
Correcting Negative Effects of Change
Although every successful change manager will follow the original plan specifically, it is inevitable that some parts of the plan will fall short of goal expectations. If this happens, will the team be able to go back to the previously successful (albeit in need of a fresh process) model? Looking back to find where the problem was originally inserted can help get you back on the right track more quickly.
Approval Wait Time
Once new change plans have taken place and have been proven successful, they need to be cleared by upper management or company heads. If this process is automatic, it will help the processes be embedded quickly and with more confidence.
The Right Frame of Mind
Even though “change management process” might make organizational leaders think about company procedures and dynamics, in essence, “change management process” is truly about managing people.
Employees will be motivated by working for a company that is successful and efficient. The effects of employees being on board or not can ripple in either direction, with positivity encouraging others to work hard and want to help the company, or negative energy bringing the whole office down.
Change management also makes it possible to track changes for future progress and make the company’s assets reliable.
Trying to Prevent Negative Effects
It is also helpful to remember what you are working against. Well-organized change management processes prevent company loss, accidents, and falling behind the power curve with competitors.
eLeaP uses the example of Blockbuster, who used to be the leader in movie rentals and a household name. Netflix, on the other hand, began similarly to Blockbuster by renting out DVDs, but moved along with technological advances to become the leader in streaming, essentially putting Blockbuster out of business and becoming the new household “necessity.”
Change management that is ineffectually managed can also mean a decline in productivity, employees that do not stand behind the goals (and thus, will be less likely to stand behind future change projects), unmotivated team members, a separation or division between management and the majority of mid-level employees (possibly creating a hostile work environment), and/or employees who leave for a company that seems to provide a more effectively managed system.
All of these are a manager’s worst nightmare, but the good news is that they can be prevented by a well-planned, positive, and effective change management process.
Becoming an Effective Leader in Change
Being an effective leader when change is happening requires skills that are developed on the job and in the action; however, you can prepare yourself by making sure you have a plan and resources available before a project begins.
Many management leaders seek out an online management course or discuss lessons learned from their own supervisors. Reading books, blogs, and online articles to be as prepared as possible is an effective way to set your business and yourself up for a successful change management process.
Although the first time a manager implements intensive changes in their company can seem overwhelming, planning for success can be a game-changer. An initial success can mean it is easier to get the team on board for future inevitable changes.