A guide to change management

by External01 Apr 2015

So change is on the way – how do you now manage it?
Regardless of your business type and change issue, there are some key steps that can be considered if you are to successfully introduce change. While there are many views on this, in my view the key aspects are as follows:

The first introduction to your employee group of the idea of change and how well it is done, can make or break in terms of achieving buy in from your employee group.

A key step in mapping out a communication plan is anticipating what may be the concerns of your employee group upon first hearing the proposal and what your responses may be. In any planning scenario involving communicating with your staff, you need to consider all possible responses and ask yourself the following before commencing:
  • Why am I proposing the change (what are the benefits)?
  • What are the potential negatives (and how are these offset by the positives)?
  • Is there a timeline for implementation and can I be flexible on this?
  • What if I do meet with strong resistance – is this change a must-have, or nice-to-have?
  • Am I asking, or telling? You may not always have the choice around this – for example, a change of legislation may involve set implementation and timeframes.
The above answers will strongly influence how you can communicate in a particular scenario. For example, knowing that if there is no “buy in” from employees that you will not go further allows you to genuinely float the concept as an ‘option for feedback’. If however, it is something that must happen, the outcome would be best presented as a given, however you might need to work on the path to get there.

If you have a situation where you have already identified the outcome (e.g. we need to be able to open our doors earlier to capture business), you may need to put to your staff your analysis in getting to that point and what options you have considered may be possible in achieving the outcome. You can then seek to elicit and understand their views on the challenges and opportunities.

Prior planning should hold you in good stead and allow you to sell the benefits of the change, as well as demonstrate that you are aware that there may be negative elements and have given thought to how to manage these.

Once a final decision has been reached, an implementation plan should be clearly communicated to your relevant key stakeholders. This may include customers, suppliers and employees and should include timetabling, responsibilities, impacts and contact people in the event of any issues.

Keep an open mind
We have recently seen some high profile organisations such as Holden implement changes which were clearly a result of a long term change process conducted with their staff group and unions, leading to some surprising outcomes achieved such as reductions in wages.

Smaller businesses also often find themselves in similar situations of needing to reduce labour costs. Successful outcomes from consultation have ranged from employees agreeing to, or suggesting, accessing their annual and long service leave entitlements while remaining on the books, moving to reduced or changed working hours and considering leave without pay in circumstances where the employer may be able to “pull though” a tough time with some short term savings of labour. These outcomes have been achieved in instances where the employer has a genuinely open mind to the alternatives and can successfully work with their employees who are also committed to making alternatives work. Equally, productivity or profit generation ideas may be developed during consultation with staff as a legitimate solution to cost ratio issues.

Your implementation process on the change should incorporate the following:
  • Training  requirements, costs and timelines
  • Key milestones and measurements
  • Feedback to stakeholders on progress and/or changes to plans
  • Project completion timelines
It is vital that having decided to implement change, the process undertaken is consistent with your earlier communications, and that regular assessment is undertaken to measure the gains and refine where necessary.

Planning your assessment timeframes and measurements will assist in ensuring that your process remains on track and within budget as much as possible. Any “wins” should be celebrated as this will help your teams in continuing to focus on the original goal and vision. Issues should be recognised and dealt with promptly, and mistakes acknowledged where appropriate.

Where the change is significant, such as a loss of team members, the workforce may feel unsettled. Regular communications regarding the progress and current outcomes will assist in managing this issue.

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