Most businesses and organizations are going through significant changes—changes to strategy, changes to products or services, changes to processes, changes to technology, changes in regulations or business climate, or changes in management. Many leaders have a great sense of urgency in getting through these changes quickly and moving on. But they are frustrated when their teams and organizations don’t move fast enough—or at all. Most people and organizations can work their way through small changes over time. But for big changes—well, let’s just say that is another matter entirely.
Following the below key approaches does not guarantee an easy road through the change process, but it does make the chance of moving forward positively much greater.
4 Key Approaches for a Smooth Change Process
Deliberately plan for change. Far too many changes are allowed to “just happen” with no planning. This step involves having an actual written plan to manage the change process. If the change you are making really matters to your organization, a written "change plan" can be every bit as important as a marketing plan or a financial plan.
Create a case for change. As a leader, create a case for the change and communicate that case consistently. Why must the change be made? Why is it urgent for the change to be made now? Sometimes teams do not see the full picture of your business or organization. Provide them with more information—competitors, customers, sales results, cost trends—to help them see, feel and understand the case for change.
Help people let go. Many people tend to grow used to their current way of doing things. They may not even like how things are done, but they are used to them. They may have helped create the approaches that are being used and feel ownership for what’s done today. Or perhaps, they are uncertain what their roles will be after the change, if they have the skills needed to do what will be required of them in the future, or if they will even have a job at all!If leaders do a good job in creating a case for change, the next key step is helping team members feel like they can not only survive, but also thrive in the new situation. Being up-front with people about this need to let go and acknowledging the loss is what wise leaders do. Then, leaders can provide additional training, encouragement, and as much clarity as possible for the new approaches, tools, roles and responsibilities. They can also continue to share a picture of what the future can look like—a better future.
Celebrate wins. Wise leaders look for opportunities to celebrate, not just for the final completion of a big change, but at small incremental points. They also recognize and celebrate with those individuals who have adopted changes especially well, creating positive models for the rest of the organization.