Planning a New Change or Initiative in the Organization? You Might Need to Implement a Change Management Plan First.
Judging by the number of companies gone kaput because of their failure (or fear) to change, we can safely conclude that change is inevitable. Any resistance to it will eventually cause the demise of an organization. But for any change to be successful at all, there needs to be a strong change management process in place.
Let me share a story.
Company A, a large e-Learning service provider, eager to be at the forefront of digital technology decides to move from a legacy ERP system to a new platform. This will allow them to have greater control and flexibility over their data, improving their operational efficiency & automating most processes that were done manually.
While they were not short of budget, had a great transition plan in place, their transition initiative failed the first time around. This caused the company an excessive loss of time, manpower and even market reputation.
The only reason? They focused too much on getting the system to work, against all odds without addressing underlying challenges in the organization itself.
For example, they did not take into consideration the people side of change. When the company initiated employees with their new system, they were met with resistance. Most of the employees there spent nearly a decade and were skillful with the old system. They weren’t given any prior training about the new changes in places and were simply expected to take on changes.
This caused a dramatic increase in employee turnover, with processes all over the place, morale right to the ground, conflicts between old and new talent – in short, total chaos.
Don’t be like Company A.
If you truly want to embrace digital transformation and create initiatives, implement a change management system.
What Should You Focus on in a Change Management Plan?
Change management is not a one-time goal. It requires persistence and careful planning. Here’s what your plan should focus on:
1. Getting People On Board & Focusing on Culture
Inertia, the fancy term for, “we’ve always done it this way,” and ignorance are the two most significant challenges businesses face during a change.
It’s easy to want to force change on people, but at the end of the day, you need a workforce to carry out change.
We’ve always done it this way
As in the case of Company A, they brought in new talent to manage the change, but then conflicts began to arise between new and older employees. The conflicts caused most of the disruption in processes as new talent felt they were not in the right place and decided to move elsewhere than tolerate negativity. What was supposed to be a smooth transition turned into a sour experience for everyone including the management.
Part of change management therefore lies in creating a positive workplace culture where everyone is brought on board with new changes. Employees are given training, coaching and consultation to help them become a better version of themselves. Should the resistance continue despite best efforts, then the management will need to take drastic actions.
It’s important to note that culture and people build a company’s reputation. You don’t want employees giving you bad reviews or leaving your organization bad taste because eventually, it will prevent you from hiring the right talent.
2. Creating a Change Management Team and a Change Process
There ought to be a team specifically to manage change within the organization. The team could comprise of project managers, talent recruiters and consultants who have experience with helping a company move through the transition period. Moreover, employees within the organization must also be given a chance to be part of this team where a healthy exchange of ideas, improvement of existing processes, etc can be implemented with transparency.
The team assembled will be responsible for creating and implementing a change process or a change plan that would include:
- Necessary trainings and coaching to old employees for acquiring new skills
- Initiating a process change within the organization without affecting customers and front-end processes
- Resolving conflicts between old and new employees
- Creating a schedule and budget plan with pre-defined goals, deadlines and desired outcomes
- Working with consultants and service providers to ensure the schedule and budget is followed through
- Stabilizing company processes after the transition period
3. Uniting C-Level Executives
Change is useless if there is no unified buy-in of C-level executives. It’s important to note that it’s not just the CEO who is responsible for driving change. All executives within the organization must be aligned with the vision and the processes involved.
Each C-level executive must play their role in preparing their respective teams and departments with the new change and exhibit their leadership during this time.
In my experience, if members of the C-suite waver and are not able to collaborate, they leave a bad message for the rest of the organization. Any opinion, change of mind, the conflict between C-level executives must be kept between them and an external party such as the consultant must be approached to create a non-biased, objective solution to the conflict.
4. Avoid Enforcing Rapid Change
Don’t enforce rapid change. As much as you want the transition to occur, doing it forcefully will only result in disaster.
This is why you need a change management team in place to ensure that change happens according to a defined pace and schedule. Most businesses make the mistake of coming in and swinging change at full-force, fixing everything at once. They’d want to fix their data, their talent, implement systems, drive change aggressively.
You have to realize it’s a long-term journey, with no shortcuts. Because you need to take your people, your customers, your processes, your operations, and your budget all together, you have to take it slow and carefully.
5. Relying Solely on Technology
Sure, that new CRM, that new project management software, that new automated tool is great to boost the productivity and operational efficiency of your organization, but remember that technology is only as good as the people who use it.
If you rely too much on technology and forget some good old management and leadership techniques, you give out a negative message. Moreover, enforcing your employees to suddenly be tech-savvy and learn a new system is overwhelming, causing them to feel insecure, afraid and incompetent. Give your employees a chance to succeed gradually.
Change, as much as it is loved, is quite tricky. Do it too fast and everything crumbles – do it too slow and you miss being at the competitive edge. Resist and you fail. There needs to be a balance and that balance is the trick or the puzzle you need to solve with a solid change management plan.