Recently, the focus has been on implementing change and the need for businesses and employees to adapt because of COVID-19. Change is nothing new as in life we are constantly assessing and adapting to changes around us. However, for the first time in a long time, the difference is the speed and breadth of change being faced by all.
In this blog we will touch on some of the key aspects and how to implement change.
What does implementing change mean?
You have experienced or identified an issue or opportunity that individuals or businesses will need to adapt to either address or embrace.
The size of the change will determine how complex and far reaching the change will go. This will determine the approach.
A change in employees start and finish times may be a simple change that only needs communication to those affected.
Whereas a change in office location will need far more planning and involvement.
Whatever the change, it is important to be clear the following:
- What needs to be achieved
- For how long
- Who would be potentially affected
The 7 steps in implementing change
How do you start to implement process change?
The first part of any change process is to understand what is driving the change and what is the outcome you are looking to achieve.
Many businesses will have a series of clearly laid out processes and procedures for change. These will have been developed over time and will be clear on what the change needs to accomplish.
This is critical as from this you can work backwards to understand what process, procedures and people will be affected.
A simple model to help set out successful change is as follows
Change Model: Unfreeze > Change > Refreeze
Understanding what is currently going on in the area you are looking to change. This includes the processes, procedures. Plus, the people who could be affected and the business culture and behaviours
This is the part where you implement and roll out the changes required
This is where the change is consolidated.
The key to the success of this part is based on how well the previous steps have been addressed.
Done poorly, a business or employees will slip back into what was familiar to them.
Many change programmes fail as, in the need to move quickly, they do not fully unfreeze. They apply a quick thaw, make the change and quickly refreeze.
What to consider when implementing change?
Be clear what you are looking to change and why.
Understand who is going to be affected by the change and to what degree.
To succeed you will need to get these people onboard.
How quickly do you need the change to be implemented?
This will affect the way you may look to go about the change.
Make the change first and then explain the reasons why afterwards, or consult on options before proceeding.
Either way, make sure everyone understands the catalyst, purpose and outcome for change.
Culture plays an important part in any change
Culture is often defined as emanating from the result of everyone’s behaviours.
This is sometimes at odds with what a business perceives or even communicates what it is.
Let’s look at a business where change happens regularly.
The culture of the business is one of adaptability and creative thinking around change. Employee behaviours are based on familiarity with change and therefore can be more accepting.
A business that has established working practices and has not been exposed to change may find it more difficult.
Their employees may be more challenging and resistant.
This is not because they mean to be but because they are concerned about the unknown.
They will be worried about how the change may or may not affect them.
They may need more time to understand and work through the process.
If you are looking to make changes…
…that will impact the employee’s contractual rights, then careful consideration needs to be paid to how you may do this.
Let’s imagine you’re looking to reduce employees working time. You will need to consult with them to gain their input before making any changes.
Practicalities like this need to be understood and planned into the change timeline.
Failure to do so could lead to delays, breaches of legislation, employee mistrust and resistance. This ultimately could block the whole change itself.
What are the steps to implementing change in an organisation?
To successfully implement change the following needs to be considered or developed:
Understand the need for change and what impact it will have on both the business and employees
Create a strong narrative for change. Having a clear narrative will help you both articulate the need for change. It will provide employees the opportunity to both understand and hopefully accept the reason for change. It will allow them to start processing how it may affect themselves and their teams.
Have a plan. Setting out a plan of how you will implement change allows you to ensure you have the key steps in place and in the right sequence. It will also allow you to build out the detail, and or share with others to help gain their input. It will also act as a marker when you implement to track if you are going to meet your deadlines
Identify and bring the right people on board early. Are you going to rely on managers to deliver messaging or implement the change? You will need to equip them to enable them to do this.
Create feedback mechanisms. With most change, things crop up that you didn’t expect or not go as planned. Having a way for people to identify these and generate solutions will help to keep your change plan on track. Also the change, once completed, will be sustainable. Change will also potentially impact employees. It is crucial that they have a way of seeking areas of clarification and of addressing their own issues and concerns.
Understand and measure the success of your change. Having a clear idea of the outcome you are looking to achieve is critical. In order to measure the success or failure of the change, it is useful to know how to measure exactly that. Some measures may be more easier than others. If you are looking to increase productivity on a production line, productivity stats could be used. However if your change is more organisational, the measure is more of a qualitative one so how would you measure this?
Continually evaluate the impact of the change and adjust as required. Some businesses have well documented processes and procedures. These will need to be amended to ensure once the change is established that it can be sustained.
Many change programmes seep backwards when implemented if there are gaps in the process. Areas of ambiguity become filled with ‘this is how we used to do it’ and ‘this used to work.’
Document your new processes and build in review points so these gaps can be assessed and addressed appropriately. Change will impact employees and therefore the same principles will apply here as well.
Change may have provided new working opportunities as well as removing some. Ensure that employees are aware of what they are required to do, or not to do, so that the change will be embedded, and their health and well-being is being looked after.
Success measures will help in ensuring that your change delivers the desired outcome you had planned for.
What could go wrong with implementing change?
A main reason change fails in organisations is the fact that they do not look at change through the various stakeholder lenses.
The impact of change is then completely misjudged, creating undue resistance. Or a solution is adopted that is deemed to fail.
When approaching change, take time to look at the issues and impacts from a range of stakeholder groups:
- Supply Chain
Another reason for failure is lack of planning.
Sometimes change is needed quickly and the desire to push on and implement takes over.
We are not advocating that lengthy planning sessions are necessary. However having a documented approach that takes into consideration all stakeholder groups will help enormously when you come to implement.
And lastly and one may argue most importantly…
Communicate to the right people, in the right way at the right time.
Nothing alienates people more than the feeling that they have been excluded from change.
Once you have lost a stakeholder it is sometime difficult to get them back on board. Make sure you then inform them of your plans.
People often ask why is implementing change is so difficult within an business.
As we have discussed, there are many facets to change and each business and employee is different. There will be different reasons why any change will succeed or fail. By following the tips provided above hopefully implementing change in your organisation will fall into the successful bracket.
About the author
Mark has been involved in leading change programmes for more than 25 years.
He has worked across all sectors and business sizes, including a series of well-established and respected high street brands.
He also holds a post graduate degree in Managing Performance and Change. Let’s connect on LinkedIn