Change for change’s sake is a waste of time and resources that businesses cannot afford. Changes that you need to implement may be necessary, but they are also disruptive and expensive. If you don’t have a good plan in place to assess and manage change, you increase the costs and the risk of failure. But what is change management exactly? And how can you improve it in your business?
What Is Change Management?
Not changing is not always an option. However, you can control the rate of change, how changes are implemented and how you decide what to change in your operations.
Change management involves receiving and reviewing proposed changes. The approved changes are assigned to someone or some group to be implemented. The changes are scheduled, and any related costs are included in the budget. Change management systems are formal management systems for controlling changes made to business processes and hardware.
The Benefits of Formal Change Management Systems
Formal change management systems mean that every change is budgeted, scheduled and approved. Change management in the workplace arguably starts with information technology standards. These industry standards require formal documentation of the current as-is state and planned to-be state along with a plan of how to get there.
You plan every software upgrade and security patch while testing it for compatibility. When things are rolled out, you test the system before going live. If the changes fail, you can roll back to the last working version. You minimize the odds of failure or conflicts, and you can always restore things back to the way they were.
When employees can suggest changes and control many of the changes to their job, they’re more likely to be happy with how things are run. When the processes are documented and changes to the formal processes are rolled out in a controlled manner, everyone knows how to do their jobs. There is less confusion and conflict.
Change management allows you to decide which changes to make and, when done right, ensure they have adequate resources. You don’t make changes on the mere hope you’re keeping up with competitors, and you don’t wait too long to implement changes that are overcome by other events.
How to Improve Change Management in Your Organization
You want to make the business case for changes in how work is done and convince all stakeholders of the need to make these changes. You can take things to the next level by providing change management training.
Consider offering change management certification training to team leaders and other staff. Sites like FindCourses, for instance, offer a course on successfully managing and implementing change. This site also offers training on how to deal with change and prepare organizations for changes that need to be made. Then you know how to address feelings whether it is fear they’ll lose their jobs or have to learn new ones. Expect resistance, and know how to work through it. Don’t force-feed initiatives without explaining why they’re being done.
You can use catalysts to increase support for change. It may be the failure of the workgroup to meet a major goal or the loss of a major customer. If people can see that the choice is continued decline of the company and possibly the loss of their jobs with the need to change, they’re more likely to support it. Demonstrate what is in it for them, whether it is continued employment, higher productivity with the associated boost in pay or promotion opportunities. This can make them more willing to go through the pain that comes with change.
Don’t Rush Changes
Give organizational changes the time and resources required. Ensure that people are trained in how to use new equipment or software. Verify that process documentation has been updated and that everyone is trained in the new procedures. Give people the opportunity to report concerns as you formulate plans and problems during implementation. This improves buy-in and reduces the risk of failure.
Build change expectations into your company culture. Ask for tips on how to do things better and recognize those who give recommendations that save the company time and money. Talk about the changes that need to be made in the future to keep up with competitors and evolving technology.
Be realistic in your proposed changes. Don’t over-promise, because this guarantees you’ll under-deliver. Recognize that there will be problems and challenges, and commit to working through them. Adapt as necessary.
Don’t downplay the impact of change either. Some changes could actually have serious repercussions on your employee’s time management, changes in function could have more of an impact on certain demographics, or affect certain personality types more than others. Some might start to feel inadequate and lose confidence. These are all the things you have to keep in consideration and address during periods of change.
Address the Roots of Employee Resistance
Too many organizations make the mistake of thinking that resistance necessarily has to come from difficult employees. But they rarely stop to think that changes may be impractical, or sometimes downright dangerous. You need to have some sort of feedback system in place and leave space for a dialogue. You shouldn’t let them dictate change, but you also have to listen to their concerns.
In most cases, employees resist en masse not because they’re refractory to change, but because the data they have shows them that the initiatives are ill advised. They might also be able to see things from a different perspective and be able to identify potential issues faster.
You have to find a way to get real time feedback on changes at the earliest stages. You should also be ready to make adjustments. Organizations need to always find ways to gather and quantify effects of changes on the employees who are the most affected. You’ll then have all the data needed to make better informed decisions.
You can’t expect your employees to all be on board immediately. You may experience some pushback, even with beneficial initiatives, but some employees might still be attached to the old ways of doing things. This is why change leaders have to be present at every stage of the stage cycle.
Your employees will often go through a period of grief, and you have to assist them during that period. But you also have to be able to convey to them the importance of the change. Implement an open door policy and be ready to answer any questions they may have.
Do Not Dictate Change, Teach it
Another error a lot of business take is implementing change in an autocratic way. Never forget that your employees are the moving parts of your organization, and that all changes go through them. Thus, not easing change in will lead to higher attrition rate, more dissension, and eventually, more resignations. You have to implement change through training. You have to bring changes through training and peer to peer learning. Education encourages and allows employees to understand the rationale behind changes.
While change is inevitable, it goes better when you have a plan in place for every change being implemented. Formal change management systems provide balance and perspective while preventing costly chaos.