Change management can be a difficult process for even the most seasoned leader. Executives rise to positions of authority by solving problems, and their approach to change management may reflect that impulse: identify a solution to a given problem, assemble the staff, and share plans for the new process, emphasizing bottom-line benefits. While this is a logical plan of attack, it may not account for the many human concerns that come into play when significant change is at hand.
There is a better way to approach change management, and it doesn’t involve ordering copies of “Who Moved My Cheese?” for all employees. Effective communication will help you promote change more effectively and keep pain to a minimum. Key points to consider when contemplating change management include:
Communicate early and often: Team members focused on their day-to-day responsibilities may not be aware of a problem that is apparent to management, or may simply accept it as part of the status quo. In such cases, solutions often appear to be change for the sake of change. By socializing the existence of the problem and soliciting ideas and feedback from those who will be affected, management will ensure that the team understands the need for action and is invested in decision-making. It may be especially valuable to bring in a skilled change management consultant who can address issues from an unbiased perspective and ask critical questions that employees may prefer to sidestep.
Communicate with your ears: Once the decision has been made and communicated, company leaders are much more likely to turn change opponents into proponents if they actively listen and respond to the concerns of those most impacted. Two-way discussion and communication are essential ingredients of successful change management.
Communicate the big picture: When a change must be made, it may not be feasible or appropriate to involve everyone in the necessary decisions. In such situations, effective change management depends on clearly explaining why the decision is being made and what impact it will have. Team members are concerned with customer experience, product quality, and employee satisfaction as well as the bottom line. That means leadership must address the impacts on all areas of the company. Presenting the effects of the change honestly and as positively as possible will help team members understand how the change impacts the company as a whole. In large organizations, members of one work group frequently do not understand how their activities relate to others. Seeing the big picture will help them become active change management participants.
Communicate the little picture: Employees are more likely to embrace and contribute to successful change management if they receive honest information about the direct impact the changes will have on their activities, work relationships and pocketbooks.
In the digital age, our paradigms are shifted, our cheese moved, and our concept of reality altered on a daily
basis by relentless technological, societal, and business change. This can be overwhelming, and even the most
dedicated employee may wonder whether he or she really needs to adapt to every disruption that comes along. Truly
successful change management requires that companies help employees and customers understand change, accept
it and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment.
To learn more about change management, please e-mail email@example.com.
Imagine that you’re a department head in a regional office of a large national organization. For years, you’ve campaigned for a business process change that requires a new software deployment. Despite the steep up-front cost, you’re certain the return on investment will be impressive. Your process change concept may not have much traction at the division or corporate office, but you’re confident that if you can get it off the ground, it will be a winner. Finally, you’ve managed to get budget approval from the regional VP. You’ve found the best software developer and you’re ready to roll. Or are you?
Experienced process change consultants advise that an approved budget may not be enough to get the job done. Many a process change has been killed mid-stream because its sponsor failed to secure upper-level commitment. When tackling process change, it’s obviously essential to engage the stakeholders who will be directly affected. But in most cases, especially if an intervention or new software is involved, don’t forget to seek support as high up in the corporate chain of command as possible. Think of it as crossing the street in a combat zone: look left, look right, and then look up.
The more levels of management in an organization, the more important it is to have senior executive support for process change. In large and multi-national companies, it isn’t unusual for the plans of local business units to get lost in the corporate shuffle. Enlisting executive commitment for your process change will ensure that you can overcome the resistance you may encounter along the way.
Without visibility higher up the ladder, a process change project can be killed or sidelined for several reasons.
- New budget cuts may be mandated – an all-too-common experience these days. If HQ is unaware of your unit’s need
for process change, it’s an easy cut to make.
- Unbeknownst to you, the division or corporate office may fund a different solution to the problem your process change is intended to solve, making yours redundant or irrelevant.
- Your process change may not align with company strategic direction.
Although you may be action-oriented and eager to stake out your territory, haste can definitely make waste. In some cases, senior executive support is so critical that you’re doomed without it. In most cases, getting that commitment will simply allow you to get the job done more quickly and less expensively. Even if your process change plans are turned down when you seek upper-level endorsement, it’s better to get that decision sooner rather than later. Instead of wasting time and resources on a project that ultimately won’t see the light of day, you can spend the time building your case, or on other, more productive efforts.
While the risks of not having executive support are many, the benefits of having it are equally great. Process change experts know that the higher you go, the better the solutions. While you are familiar with local business unit issues, a more global perspective will help determine if the local problem you’ve identified is truly unique. Perhaps a more comprehensive solution can be of benefit to the larger organization. An aerial view may also help identify potential allies from other business units with whom you can team up to make your case.
How high is up? A good rule of thumb for seeking executive support is to go as high as possible, then try for one level higher. Incorporating senior executive commitment into your process change plans will ultimately make for a smoother deployment and get you to the finish line faster.
To learn more about process change management, please visit www.cliintel.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.