Change - The C Word of the Business World

Change - The C Word of the Business World

     It’s an interesting phenomenon, when people say “we need to change,” or “things are going to change,” or “there is a new process and we will have to change the way we are doing things,” and then people get upset. There's a saying that goes around, "Change the status quo or become it." You don’t have to look too far to find examples of companies that failed to change and are now just a memory. The best recent example is Blockbuster Video, not believing that video rental was moving online, they decided to continue with the status quo and now a company that once had more than 9,000 locations worldwide, has just one location left in Bend, Oregon and it will someday close as well, leaving the entire company as just a memory.  

The dictionary definition of change management is “the management of change and development within a business or similar organization.” But what does that really mean? Organizations that implement change management processes are more likely to successfully handle growing pains.

To stay alive in business or in life, you have to change. Change can be good, but it also can be painful. By nature, humans do not like to be uncomfortable and change sometimes feels uncomfortable, thus leading to the resistance. However, change can be good and after the change has happened, there is a new comfortable and life is better.

History of Change Management
The philosophies inherent in today's change management practices are structured to plan (rather than react) to the challenge of organizational change. It's a growing industry with thousands of books and numerous theoretical management frameworks addressing both the necessity and the pain involved in managing and planning for change.

The concept of change management dates back to the early to mid-1900s. Kurt Lewin’s 3-step model for change was developed in the 1940s; Everett Rogers’ book Diffusion of Innovations was published in 1962, and Bridges’ Transition Model was developed in 1979. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that change management became well known in the business environment, and formal organizational processes became available in the 2000s.  

8 Essential Steps for an Effective Change Management Process

Your organization is constantly experiencing change. Whether caused by new technology implementations, process updates, compliance initiatives, reorganization, or customer service improvements, change is constant and necessary for growth and profitability. A consistent change management process will aid in minimizing the impact it has on your organization and staff. 

Below you will find eight essential steps to ensure your change initiative is successful:

1. Identify What Will Be Improved
 Sometimes, it is easy to see what process or system needs to change in your company. Once you have identified this process, then the planning can start.

2. Present a Solid Business Case to Stakeholders
 Oftentimes, in an organization, the people on the front line are the ones that see the change. If you are lucky, this will be the case as the change will happen faster and more naturally. Regardless of where the change has to happen, senior management will need to understand why the change is to happen and the benefits, pros and cons.

3. Plan for the Change
As with anything you do in life, you plan for the change. Not only do you need a plan for what is to change, but also you plan for how the staff will act or react to this change. A solid plan will ensure your change is successful.

4. Provide Resources and Use Data for Evaluation
As part of the planning process, resource identification and funding are crucial elements. These can include infrastructure, equipment, and software systems. Also, consider the tools needed for re-education, retraining, and rethinking priorities and practices. Many models identify data gathering and analysis as an underutilized element. The clarity of clear reporting on progress allows for better communication, proper and timely distribution of incentives, and measuring successes and milestones.

5. Communication
Communication is the key to everything. When changing a process, you cannot over communicate the needed information. Depending on the scope of the change, the communication could range from simple emails, training classes, posters, banners and direct mail communication pieces sent to the employees' houses.

6. Monitor and Manage Resistance, Dependencies, and Budgeting Risks
Resistance is a very normal part of change management, but it can threaten the success of a project. Most resistance occurs due to a fear of the unknown. It also occurs because there is a fair amount of risk associated with change – the risk of impacting dependencies, return on investment risks, and risks associated with allocating budget to something new. Anticipating and preparing for resistance, by arming leadership with tools to manage it, will aid in a smooth change lifecycle.

7. Celebrate Success
Everyone likes to celebrate and when you are changing a process, it is important to celebrate the little things as well as the milestones. The more successes that are celebrated, the quicker and easier the desired change will happen.  

8. Review, Revise and Continuously Improve
As much as change is difficult and even painful, it is also an ongoing process. Even change management strategies are commonly adjusted throughout a project. Like communication, this should be woven through all steps to identify and remove roadblocks. And, like the need for resources and data, this process is only as good as the commitment to measurement and analysis.

Change is tough and managing the process can be tough as well. The key is to have a plan and try to expect the hurdles and move towards changes. The key: Don't be like Blockbuster Video, change or die. Change can be good and more often than not, change is good for you.


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