Assessing the Need for Change
While “change management" is a popular concept and the term is thrown around a lot now days, you first need to assess whether or not a change is needed in your business. Usually we assess our business when it is in a slump, trying to figure out how to enhance or grow our customer base, or making significant changes to how we do business.
Assess your business need for change when things are going well. Look at the best practices of your competitors and compare their results with yours. Adjusting your strategy to enhance your growth or customer base is not change management.
What is Change Management
Many people think change management means one thing. They mistakenly lump the three distinct parts of change management together and then wonder why it is so hard to implement. When implementing change management, it is important that we keep each area compartmentalized to avoid unnecessary stress and aggravation for ourselves and those we are working with.
Change Management - People
This area deals with the people in our organization. How we relate to each other in our work environment and what changes we can implement to make our organization function more effectively. If you are focusing on people in your change management plan, this is not where you change processes. The changes you make, whether in reorganizing your business or department or creating more productive teams lie within the “people" portion of change management.
When implementing a change management plan it is important that all of your staff understand why the change is needed. The explanation must be detailed enough to encourage a personal investment on the part of your staff for the success of the change. If staff do not feel a real need for change, or have not made a commitment to it's implementation it will not only take longer to make the change, but also the change will not be long term and sustainable.
One of the mistakes that we, as leaders make, is to assume that because we can see the picture clearly, everyone else can too. It is important to take a step back and think about the “pieces" of the picture that our staff are seeing and what they are not seeing. In order to implement change, everyone must see and understand the same picture and have the same understanding of how it will benefit them.
People will respond with enthusiasm if they see a benefit to themselves or their work environment, if they understand the need for a change and if they are included in the change process. Too often decisions to implement change are made without the involvement of the staff who will be most affected. This is the primary reason that those efforts fail. There must be buy-in from a majority of the staff to effectively implement change. Especially change that is going to involve people and how they interact and communicate with each other.
Change Management - Processes
This area deals with the way things are done in our organization. How we process the paper, and what we do with it. This is where forms and processes are analyzed and changes are made to meet the needs of our growing business.
Not everyone in our business deals with the same processes. As much as we would like uniformity, what makes our business unique is the way that our staff interacts with customers or meets other needs with quality and precision. If we are going to assess and change processes, it is important that the process needs changing. Sometimes it is not the process but the people who need to change, but because we have lumped change management into one big ball we wind up trying to make changes to perfectly acceptable processes or change people when the process needs to be changed. No one knows better about the need to change a process than the people who are actually using them day-to-day. It is important that we discuss with our staff the possibility of changing a process and involve them in the implementation of the change. Changing a process, like changing people, requires commitment and buy-in on the part of those who will be required to use the changed process on a daily basis.
Change Management - Equipment
As it's name implies, this area deals with our equipment and software. Changing or adapting to meet our needs, getting rid of the old stuff and figuring our what we need to add to our arsenal of tools. It is important to note that this aspect of change management does not involve changing “people" rather, it is changing tools. It is our nature to use equipment until it wears out. This can be very costly to our business and also can cause a lot of problems when we do finally make a change.
One of my associates has owned their business for over 20 years, when they began the business, they had a program created in a state-of-the-art program and hired an individual to work on this program. I might add that it is a major piece of what makes this business profitable. Now, twenty years later, there is one person in the company who knows how to use this software. It is so outdated that it cannot be upgraded, but must be completely re-input to a different software program which will involve several weeks. Even if he wanted to implement change, he is unable to do so because he is stuck in the software and the one person who knows how to use it. It is very costly if you do not keep up with the changing market of available equipment. In the end, this is going to be extremely costly to the business and will result in their having to shut their doors for several weeks to get the information transferred to an updated program.
Equipment is one portion of change management that should be addressed continuously. It is the most critical piece of your business and will cost an incredible amount of money if not tended to regularly.
Implementing Change Management
When you decide to implement change, be sure to categorize the changes you want to make first. Once you have a visual of where the changes need to take place, it will be much easier to research and discuss the changes with the stakeholders who will be most affected by the changes.
If you are going to change people, remember that anyone affected by the change is a stakeholder. Don't wait to tell the staff about a change after the decision has been made that will affect them in an adverse way. Get buy-in and personal investment from all staff by first sharing the benefits of the change and gathering data to support the change. You win in two ways by doing this. The people who do not feel they can commit to the change will leave and thus will not sabotage the change before it can get off the ground. And the people who do make a personal investment will be excited about the change and drive it with the enthusiasm needed to make the change successful and sustainable.
If you are going to change processes, remember to include all stakeholders. In other words, include everyone who will be involved in making the new or changed process work. Whether you have to have representatives from groups or your business size is such that you can discuss the changes with each individual, be sure that you do discuss the change and get a verbal commitment from each person to help in driving the process change. This will save you a lot of time on the backend and will instill the kind of loyalty that you need from a high quality staff.
You staff will always appreciate updated equipment and software that will make their lives easier. The only caveat is that you will need to include in your software or equipment purchase, training for those staff who will be using the software. Don't get the equipment or software and assume that the staff will know how to use it. If someone on your staff does, great, you won't have to pay an outside person to train everyone else. But you need to be prepared to make the investment for training of your staff on the new equipment. This cost should be included in your yearly budget. It is not a one-time cost and definitely does not end. So you must be prepared and be vigilant of the changes in the industry related to your business and processes.
As long as you do not lump all three of these pieces of change management together, you will find that you can effectively implement change in all three areas with minimal disruption. It is important also that you think about the big picture your staff see as opposed to your own big picture vision. If these big pictures do not match, the key to successful implementation of change management is to create a big picture that both you and your staff share.
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