Sometimes you instigate it. Sometimes, events force it to occur. Change. Are you handling it as well as you could?
“Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.”
–Mark Sanborn, speaker and author
Your business undoubtedly sees change occur on a regular basis. You switch to a new Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Establish flex hours. Get a different phone system or cafeteria service provider. Rearrange your office space. There might be grumbling, but your staff probably makes the necessary adjustments.
Sometimes, though, the change is overwhelming, and affects the entire organization in major ways. Such scenarios might include:
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Natural disasters
- Changes in upper management, or
- A radical shift in product or service offerings.
At times like these, you, your department managers, and your HR department have a major challenge on your hands: change management. Here are some suggestions for making a smooth transition:
Get a headstart.
Some change occurs rapidly and without warning, like a flood, or the sudden departure of a key manager. You can – and should – have contingency plans in place for such possible scenarios.
But if you have advance warning of a change, use that time wisely. Do your pre-planning with management, and then bring employees in as soon as possible. Their feedback should help you better shape the new normal, and their level of engagement and ownership will be higher. Help them understand early on why this is occurring, and the consequences of not implementing it.
Acknowledge the losses, but emphasize the long-term possibilities. Co-workers may be shifted to other jobs or departments, or leave the company. Some employees will miss the way things were, and some might lack confidence in their ability to change. Let them know that you know that their reactions are natural and understandable, but encourage them – and yourself – to take the long view.
Once the change has occurred, encourage honest feedback.
This step should actually begin during the planning stages. As with any company goal, you’ll need to devise a system for evaluating the impact of the change. How is it working? Are there things you didn’t foresee that need to be modified?
You’ll get a sense of this by simply observing your company’s workflow, its productivity levels, and its overall mood. But formalize the “report card.” Just as you made it clear that the change was necessary, make it known that you’re sincerely interested in gauging its effectiveness.
Weather the Storm
Companies who know they must undergo radical transformations are often overwhelmed. It would be easier to maintain the status quo and just make minor adjustments, goes their thinking.
There’s comfort in that scenario, but more risk in the long run than the challenge of change management.
Jack Welch saw — and orchestrated — an enormous amount of change as Chairman and CEO of GE for 20 years.
His take on the process? “Change before you have to.”