Every business must change at some point.
It might be a pivot in strategy. It could be an entire transformation. Either way, it won’t be easy. Because trying to alter tried and tested ways of working can be a real headache. And, no matter how good your intentions, it can end up negatively affecting your business if not implemented correctly.
Our opinion is that change needs to come from the top down to be effective. So here are four key action points on implementing change in your business and why getting it right is so important to your success.
1: Practice what you preach
Change is often difficult to accept because it upsets routine and introduces fear of ‘the unknown’. As a business owner the best way to demonstrate confidence in what you’re asking others to do is to lead by example.
In his book, Open Source Leadership, CEO Rajeev Peshawaria found that the majority of respondents in a global survey agreed that top-down leadership drove organisational success. This supports the reasoning that staff are more likely to react favourably to change if they see you and your senior staff implement it first.
Adhere to a work ethic of practicing what you preach – and ensure all other managers follow suit – and you should find the acceptance of change more easily flows to the rest of the team.
What this will mean for your company. When employees see leaders doing something it fills them with the confidence and motivation to go along the same path. They want to be led, not dictated to, and by showing that you are on board with the changes you’re more likely to have a seamless process with the rest of the team. This is crucial, because changes that are badly implemented can have a detrimental effect on a business and the teams involved later down the line.
2: Communication is key at all stages
Employees can go through a range of emotions when faced with change, including fear, anxiety, happiness and depression, because it can affect everyone differently. This is why it’s important to talk to your staff and be ready to discuss their concerns to help get them to the point where they’re ready to move forward.
Communication is therefore essential at every stage of the process. It will open the lines of dialogue from the top down and allow your staff to:
- understand the reasons behind the change;
- voice any issues or concerns they might have;
- feel more reassured about the process; and
- get engaged
What this will mean for your company. Getting your staff to engage with the change is critical to its success. Gallup studies reveal that employees who are more engaged at work can be 45% more adaptable in the presence of change, as well as helping their teams be 21% more productive. So by communicating at all stages of the process, and engaging your staff, you are far more likely to have a smoother, successful and more productive implementation of change.
3: Finalise your vision before implementation
You shouldn’t embark on any organisational change without a firm understanding of what the change needs to achieve. After all, you wouldn’t start out on a long and difficult journey without having some idea of the destination, would you?
Your vision for the change needs to be carefully thought through before you begin implementation. Ask yourself questions, such as what’s the ultimate objective for the business – more sales, higher productivity, increased efficiency? What are your measurable goals? And what will define success for you?
With these answers you’ll be able to finalise your vision for the change (and therefore your vision for the future of the business) before you begin the implementation.
What this will mean for your company. Setting out a vision for your change gives you something to aim for and means you’ll be less likely to stumble during the transformation process. Rest assured, you’re not locked into it – chances are you will pivot and change course during the process. But it at least gives you a tangible target and will help act as a reminder of what the change is designed to help your business achieve.
4: Prepare yourself/plan ahead for opposition
In her book Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change, speaker and author Naomi Karten states:
“Resistance to change is a normal human response. It’s normal for people to want to stay where things are familiar. Rather than be surprised, wise managers anticipate these reactions.”
Even if you approach change using all the tips above, there might still be people in your company for whom the change is difficult and/or has significant implications. Identifying these areas of impact ahead of time can help you anticipate and better manage staff reactions. It might also help to designate a team of ‘change champions’ within departments who can share the responsibility of listening to concerns, offering reassurance, and generally echoing your positive outlook on the change.
What this will mean for your company. Preparing for adverse reactions to change will help you control how much impact they have on the success of the implementation. You might never be able to completely avoid objections and resistance, but by identifying where the implications might be felt the most by staff it should be easier to mitigate problems. Having change champions throughout your organisation could also help create a more encouraging environment to drive the change without too much opposition.
Changing your business for the better
Change, by its very nature, can be difficult. So make sure that any change you implement in your business is driven from the top.
Your employees will need guidance, reassurance and enthusiasm. As the business owner, with a bird’s eye view of why the change is needed and what it’s designed to achieve, you are in the best position to offer them these things. Take control of the process – by using the tips above – and you’re far more likely to effectively implement whatever changes you embark upon.
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