A guide to change management

by External01 Apr 2015
Lisa Burrell outlines the critical elements you need to consider before embarking on any change initiative.

"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."
— Niccolo Machiavelli
The above quote from 1532 also calls to mind the old adage, ’the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Change is a constant and successful change is one of the key challenges faced by business. In a tough economic climate, the rate of change can often speed up and overload can occur as increasingly ‘out there’ ideas are tried.

Working with employers to implement change, I have seen and been part of a myriad of change approaches and environments within the workplace. One of the main observations I can share from this is that no matter how good the idea, if it requires employee engagement but is handled poorly from the outset, the change process will be significantly more difficult and may often fail.

In the context of the workplace, change can be defined as a variation to the current workplace practices, structures, direction, workforce, customers or any other key aspect of an organisation. Workplace change comes in many forms, including:

}  Implementing new technology
}  Moving premises
}  Obtaining or losing a long term customer
}  Restructuring the business, including mergers and takeovers
}  Changing the way or spread of hours in which work is undertaken
}  Legislative change

Change management is the process by which you transition your business and workplace into the future framework. So how can you manage change for maximum effectiveness to reap the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls? There are many recognised models around change management; how these are interpreted and implemented in each organisation may vary wildly.

Regardless of your business type and change issue, there are some key steps that can be considered if you are to successfully introduce change.

Taking the long view
A first and key issue for business is whether you are equipped to see change coming, or whether it is effectively forced upon you. Not all change will be expected and it is important to regularly and critically consider your business in a ‘worst case’ scenario. If you found out you were about to lose your largest client to a competitor, is there something you would be doing differently now to change your business? What about if your top performing staff member left. Are you equipped with an adequate plan to protect your business? Equally, what opportunities may be currently out there, or can be created, for your business to benefit from?

Even the largest of businesses are not immune from a failure to successfully plan ahead and move with the times. The Kodak story serves as a stark reminder of this. An industry pioneer, it was once the name synonymous with photography. However, it’s inability to embrace and lead change in the world of technology led to its demise and saw the organisation fail in core business areas.

Undertaking this regular review of how you are travelling will assist you to identify factors that are within your control right now. It also assists in avoiding reactionary solutions to longer term issues and a considered approach to change management.

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