How to Manage Business Change
With constantly changing business realities, every organisation is changing the way it operates to remain competitive in the market. Some are investing in technology, others on leadership; some on processes and others on innovation. While at the surface, any business change is targeted at achieving a particular business outcome, it is the people who make the change program succeed.
[symple_box color=”blue” fade_in=”false” float=”center” text_align=”left” width=””]Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence- only in constant improvement and constant change. – Tom Peters[/symple_box]
Managing business change comprises of a set of activities that helps in preparing people and organisation to smoothly transition from current state to desired state. So how can an organisation deliver successful change program? The magnitude and complexity of a planned change may differ and therefore, the approach to manage the change needs to be tailored accordingly. Let us take an example of a services company that embarked on a business change journey to improve its customer service and one step towards it is to strengthen its IT platforms by replacing legacy systems with modernised applications.
Below are a few considerations for designing an approach for a successful change program:
1. Shared vision of future state
At the outset, it is important that there is a clear understanding of future state, roadmap and milestones in the journey. In our example, management needs to have a shared vision of how improved technology platform will help in improving customer service, measurable business benefits and next logical step in the journey.
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There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction – Wintson Churchill
2. Managing stakeholders
A business change can mean different things for different people in an organisation. A stakeholder is a person/group that can influence important decisions and has stakes involved in the sucecss of the program. Identifying key stakeholders and charting out a plan to address their concerns helps in managing their expectations and ensuring buy-in into the change. In the above example, some of the important internal stakeholders will be project sponsor (financier), heads of departments-IT, customer service, product groups. Examples of external stakeholders could be customers, suppliers and vendors and regulatory bodies as applicable.
3. Channels for two-way communication
Many a times employees, customers or other stakeholders have questions about upcoming change but are not sure of the forum to raise them. A critical aspect of change program is to establish open, two- way, consistent and continuous communication channels. A communication plan for the project should ideally have a mix of print and face-to-face, formal and informal channels is suggested for effectiveness. Read more about the art of communication in managing business change in my next article.
4. Equip people with right skills
Even if the new systems are configured and developed perfectly, it is the users of the system that define the success of the project. Therefore, developing skills of impacted people through training, coaching and performance support is very critical such that when the new system goes live, there is no impact on the performance of employees and business.
5. Create ownership for change
How many of you have heard employees say “management or project has decided to do this” or “I am not sure how will this project impact my work” ? To ensure that the project vision is achievable and sustainable, it is important to create ownership for change. One of the way to do this is by identifying change champions in every impacted department who can help in cascading the change and supporting project activities.
Change is inevitable. Companies that don’t change, dies eventually. Therefore, to ensure a business change achieves its desired outcomes, a well thought approach for managing change is extremely critical. While there is no perfect recipe for managing change successfully as every organisation is different, this article tries to covers a few necessary ingredients.
Wish you luck managing change !!