Change is inevitable, but a process for successful transition can make it easier
Change isn’t always easy—and it can be especially messy when it involves an entire business. But it’s necessary in an ever-changing world, which is why no organization can afford to remain stagnant.
How can you be sure that any changes to your business run smoothly for everyone? By taking the time to think and work through the four core principles of change management, which we’ve outlined here.
PRINCIPLE 1: Understand the change
Suggest a coworker change the way he or she does something, and it’s likely that the first question you’ll get is: “Why?” It’s a legitimate question. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly understand the reasons for the upcoming change, such as:
Why do we need to change?
What’s the goal of the change?
How will this change benefit the business?
How will the change positively impact us?
How will it affect the way we work?
What does everyone need to do in order to successfully achieve the change?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you more easily plan, implement and communicate the change.
PRINCIPLE 2: Plan the change
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it shouldn’t happen without a plan. As you plan the change, you’ll also want to plan for support of the change. The following questions will help you consider what kind of support you need:
How will you make sure you have the high-level support and sponsorship you need for the change, and how will you use that support?
Who’s best positioned to help you design and implement the change? Would it be best handled by an outside organization? Or can you use resources you already have?
Buy-in Do you have support from across the company? If you have buy-in from every segment of the company, you’ll find it easier to get everyone on board with the change.
What should success look like? What goals do you need to achieve? How will you predict and assess the impact of the change?
PRINCIPLE 3: Implement the change
When it’s time to carry out the new plan, you’ll need to ensure that everyone involved knows what they're doing. This may mean setting success criteria, identifying training needs for implementing the change, appointing “change agents” who can serve as role models for the new procedures and providing support for people across the organization throughout the change process.
PRINCIPLE 4: Communicate the change
Let everyone know what’s changing, who will be affected, when and where the changes will take place, and, most importantly (again), why things are changing.
This is a case where it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate. Research has shown that it takes at least seven repetitions for a message to be clearly communicated to an audience. We’re so inundated with information that it can be hard to determine what’s important, so make it a point to get the message out there, in multiple ways and on multiple channels, several times before you assume everyone knows what you’re talking about.
Don’t be shy about bringing up the change and the current state of implementation at in-person or virtual meetings. The more you can successfully communicate the change, the better and more positive everyone will feel about it—and understand how success can be achieved.
Responding to change
Once you’ve done all you can to understand, plan, implement and communicate change, it’s time to deal with the change process. Change is a big deal, and it can affect your employees negatively. The transition from one “normal” to another may actually consist of stages that approximate the stages of grief. Employees may feel shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.
You can help by being open and transparent, communicating the importance of the change and its ultimate goal, and continuing to work with employees as they make the transition—and come out a stronger team on the other side.