Delivering change is one of the biggest challenges most Managers face. Fundamentally, no-one likes change; particularly as change almost always means disruption and learning new ways to do familiar tasks.
Change is about human behaviour, company culture, doing things differently and, frequently, it is about doing more with less.
Once you have recognised that change has to happen and determined what to do, you then have the daunting challenge of getting everyone else in the business engaged, aligned and motivated to deliver the new goals.
Here are nine Steps that have helped me deliver change in several SMEs with deeply engrained cultures and long serving employees:
- Guiding team – establish a core team with whom you can develop the strategy, set out the timetable, share the “roll out” and together lead the company through the change program
- Compelling vision – most employees, whatever their length of service, recognise that in a fast changing world the company has to adapt to ensure its future. So make sure everyone understands that the sustainability of the business, its ability to win customers, to remain competitive and provide jobs depends on embracing change
- Leadership - the Managing Director must take the stage, front and centre, for all the roll out communication and be intimately involved in driving forward every aspect of the ongoing change programme
- Urgency – establish a sense of urgency. Make quick decisions on investments required to support the change program and set clear time bound goals. Milestones help to keep momentum and focus
- Communication - open, honest, frequent communication about the necessity, direction and progress of the change programme is crucial
- Empowerment – involve as many people as possible in the change process. Embrace all levels in the development and execution of the broader themes. All ideas and initiatives are good
- Tear down the walls – change structures and company policies that block the new vision and objectives
- Reward successes – celebrate the wins along the journey. Each milestone achieved is an opportunity to visibly recognise and reward team success
- Embed the new ways – showcase the improvements in performance. Reward and promote those who embrace the new behaviours
When resistance and setbacks come, and they will, consider the reasons why and how they can be overcome. I have found that the best ambassadors for change are often those who were sceptical of the need for change at the outset, but for whom the change process has been a revelation once they got engaged and saw the improved results.
Once started, keep momentum on the journey. All levels need to embrace change and see the benefits to ensure the new standards and behaviours become “the way we do things around here”!