Making change happen, and making it stick
Ket Patel, Co-Lead of the Change Management Institute UK, explains how businesses can adapt.
They say change is the only constant. It is a truism, but it has never been truer than in 2020. In today's fast-moving world – where consumer needs are changing, technology is developing rapidly, and trends are taking the economy in new directions – businesses need to be good at defining and implementing change to continue to grow and move forward.
But implementing change is only one part of the challenge. The real test is whether businesses can make it stick. Failed change can be detrimental to a business and cause low morale and lost faith from staff.
So how do you make sure change is successful?
As a business change consultant, Ket advises businesses of all sizes, on how to successfully roll out new ways of working. "Smaller businesses can usually be very flexible with how they work and it can make change a lot easier to implement." Giving them an advantage, because they can be more nimble.
But while a large organisation has a lot more people to get on board with changes, it also means business leaders have managers they can leverage to affect change through the business. "You'll likely have a business analyst and a project manager who can drive the planning, while operational staff can assess the impacts and develop training plans, leaving senior leaders to advocate the change leading by example and keeping staff focused on the vision," says Ket. "But if you're a small business, you don't have any of those things, or perhaps you just have one person doing it all"
That's not to say that SME owners should give up. Ket had some tips for smaller businesses to help them make a successful change: "Planning is key: Outlining your goals and then drawing up actions for achieving them, should always be the first step. Alongside these actions, lay down realistic timelines and assign an owner to each action, ensuring they take full responsibility for completion"
Consider the impact
Ket recommends that before changing anything, you should think about what it will really mean for every other part of your business. This is because: "When you pull at one string, it affects multiple others."
A good way of doing that is to first carry out an impact assessment. "It doesn't have to be a big assessment," he says, "but list out all the areas that could be impacted by the change, working out how great the impact will be and what can be done to mitigate potential risk." This simple step really opens your eyes to what is and isn't changing, allowing you to manage each aspect as opposed to discovering it partway through the change. This can include thinking about how much the change will cost you, or what extra training your team will need to help them adapt.
Two-way communication is key
"What's important, no matter what size the business, is communication," said Ket. "Making sure that everyone understands what's happening, how it will affect them, and what's expected of them, is vital."
However, he highlighted the difference between telling people what is happening and having a conversation about how to solve any challenges. "Business owners or leaders might think that because they've told someone what's coming and why it's great, that they'll agree. But everyone has their own views and they might not be in favour of the change or be experiencing it in the same way. It's important that there's an opportunity for those people to express their views and that they're heard and acted on." Asking people to make changes is about asking them to step into the future. Generally, we find this difficult so they really need to have trust in you, and being heard is an important step to building that trust.
Do as you say
If you want to introduce lasting change, you need to form new work patterns. Ket observed: "The reality is that change often fails. It could be that efforts are made to talk about what's going to happen, without action to make it a day-to-day reality." To do this, you need to set out a plan, take deliberate and purposeful action and manage people's expectations by keeping them informed. Unless people understand what it is they need to do, they won't be able to do things differently.
And this action starts at the top. Even if you're just introducing a new office rota, as the leader, you need to stick to it if you want others to follow it too. "To make change work, business leaders need to help change the behaviours of themselves and their teams."
Keep up the reminders
Weave reminders about the new method of working or new system – whatever it might be – into regular communications. Call out and celebrate when individuals or teams have made progress to establish a new work pattern. It could be a section of a weekly meeting, or even just scheduled reminders on your phone.
The good news is, this is cheap to do. Ketan said: "Simply having conversations with staff" and "being able to manage people's expectations is something any leader could do without any investment." But you'll soon see a huge return. Getting your team on your side will make managing change at work easier to roll-out and help make sure new processes stick. So you can make adapting your business a success.
Whatever change you're making, make sure your business is protected. Find out how to insure your small business, here.