Business is constantly changing. What are the best strategies for managing change and the best change management models? What is change management? A key business activity for most organizations is to effectively managing necessary change.
What is Change Management?
Change is a common element in most businesses because our markets are evolving rapidly and we need to keep pace (and even be ahead) of that rapid development.
Running your small business in a dynamic and active market will require you to learn and use management skills to adapt and change.
Often change happens to you, rather than you go looking to change.
However change comes, you need to manage it.
Change management can be handled successfully, but it takes work.
To adapt effectively for your business, use well respected and well-test change management tools; two of the best known models are:
These models have changed over time. In today's environment some of the change management models have evolved due to the introduction of other business activities led by quality and productivity programs - for example, Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, or ISO - these programs enable new and effective change management tactics.
I've worked in companies that have lived through significant changes; I've worked with some great business mentors to work through the challenges, and I've managed some very successful business change initiatives.
The need or catalyst for change: the business is failing; you have merged with, or acquired, another business to support your business growth plans; the world around your business has changed. These are all examples of when and why change is necessary. As a small business owner and the leader of your business, you must communicate the reason behind the need for change.
When your stakeholders (employees, customers, the community) understand the need for change, it is time to develop clear vision statements of where the business is going: the future. To ensure that all stakeholders are engaged, you need to be able to show them how they are included in your vision for the future.
Once you have shared the vision of the new future, you must build a change plan. The plan must contain an action plan and it must also address how you will manage resistance to change amongst the stakeholders (there will always be some resisters). As you begin to implement this plan, ensure that you are continuously updating it, sharing it with others, and reporting on results (positive and negative).
Often when you feel the need for change, there is also a time pressure to get the change done in a hurry. Don't fall into that trap. Move forward only as quickly as you and your organization can handle the change; ensure that you have the resources (people, equipment, money) to enact your plan.
There are also areas to focus on to ensure that the change management experience is successful for your business:
Change typically does not happen in one step, it is small incremental steps in the direction you want to go. To enable successful change, you must recognize that effective leaders in your organization are needed to help in managing change. Not only must the leadership be effective, it must also be consistent and relied upon (in a changing world, the leader must be constant).
If you do not include your employees early on, they may fear change and the impact of that change on their own lives. Communicate with employees early on and engage them in the change management work. Ensure that the communication is two-way; active listening is a technique that will help you to really hear what concerns or fears your employees may be experiencing.
Typically change is a cash flow drain. Plan for that by building a business financial plan to handle the change event. Do not cut back relentlessly on spending at a time when you need to invest in your business, your employees and the change that has to occur.
A natural inclination for many people facing change is to want to go back to the 'old days or old ways' and/or to do nothing and hope that the reason for change goes away. As the small business owner, you must help your group through this time of uncertainty and take a leadership role in managing change. If necessary, hire a change management consultant to work with your organization and/or to help you design the new business structure (or whatever the change may be).
Do not make change the 'flavor of the day' (like an ice cream) because if change is happening too often in your workplace, and if the employees (and customers and other stakeholders) cannot identify and accept the reason or cause for the change, you will build an organization of disengaged stakeholders who will become cynical about what you are trying to do. (Believe me, I have worked in organizations where every year was a new year, with change the special buzzword that led people in circles.)
Do use problem solving techniques and/or decision making tips to move your business forward when it gets 'stuck'. Recognize that there will be times when you need to solve a problem that is caused by the change or make decisions that only arose out of the change activity - that is normal, change acts as a catalyst to your business and causes you to do things differently. Isn't that the point?
Make sure that the reason for change is valid; don't just go down the change path because you think it is time to do things differently. There must be a very good justification to go through the upheaval that change causes. (Yes, change does cause upheaval, and it is very stressful for many people; particularly long-time employees.)
Effective strategies for managing change require the culture to change, along with the more tangible changes. For example, when merging two organizations, your goal is to have all employees feel the change is positive (that would be a win/win merger) rather than have some of the employees feel that they were on the losing end of the merger.
If you can build awareness, understanding and acceptance of the reasons for change, you can build a stronger acceptance for, and motivation to, change.
Successfully managing change means you must ensure that you are communicating regularly and effectively during periods of change; stakeholders will respond better when they understand the reason for change and the stress level for employees will be reduced.
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(Note from Kris: I was happy to give permission to use as the source was fully credited.)
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