If you read my last article on why willingness to change is the key to business success, you should be feeling primed and ready to take action! I outlined how there are three broad stages in creating a willingness to change – understanding, accepting and desiring. It all sounds pretty simple so far. But how, in practical terms, do you go about implementing that within your business?
Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
1) Start with yourself and the leadership team
You’re not going to convince anyone that change is a good thing for your organisation if you don’t believe if yourself. It’s human nature to fear the unknown. Confidence comes with understanding.
At the end of my last article, I asked you to identify a need for change in your business. It’s there in every organisation, you just need to find it. These three questions will help you find the right area of focus:
- How can you better serve your current customers?
- What needs to change to profitably create new customers?
- What changes would serve your workforce such that they can better address the previous two questions?
When you recognise the opportunities created by change, you’re more prepared to exploit them. And to bring the rest of the business along with you.
Before you can share your vision with the rest of the organisation, use this check list to make sure it’s match fit:
- Does it align with the overall values, vision and mission of your business?
- Does it provide a unique competitive advantage?
- Does it add value to existing initiatives? Or add significant enough ROI to knock the existing initiative off the top spot?
- Is it validated? Make sure the change is based on detailed research and that you’ve carried our appropriate risk/reward and cost/benefit analysis.
- Is it simple? Don’t confuse complexity with sophistication!
- Have you identified the risks? Make sure you include detailed risk management, contingency and exit planning
- Is there a clear goal?
- Are the results measurable?
- Is it actionable? Are there tangible steps to make this happen?
Doing the research and asking for others’ opinions will help build a true picture of the situation. This will enable YOU to trust your own judgement. And if you trust your judgement, others will find it much easier to follow.
2) Make sure your organisation is ready for change
It’s really important to assess the cultural landscape within your organisation early in this process. People cannot grind through the steps necessary for change until they are mentally primed and have the willingness. To assess the readiness of your organisation to participate in change, you need to ask yourselves questions like:
- What is the level of trust within the organisation?
- Do people feel generally positive about their work environment
- Do you have a history of open communication?
- Do you share financial information?
These things have a tremendous impact on people’s willingness to change. If you don’t have a positive and supportive environment prior to change, you have a real uphill struggle. If your honest answer to any of the above questions is “low” or “no”, you’ve got some work to do on company culture before you start to try and implement change.
3) Make sure your employees understand the need for change
Presenting the reason for change may well involve explaining the diagnosis that led to the conclusion that change is needed. You need to:
- State the facts (making sure they are relevant to your audience and matter to them)
- Explain the logic, and use that logic to connect provable facts with recommended actions
- Make an emotional connection.
The last point is critical to sustain action. It doesn’t mean being “nice”. It means identifying what individuals want to achieve and making the link between that goal and the change you’re proposing. It’s about making people trust your judgement and giving your team a reason to believe in you. This creates the willingness to change that you need.
4) Work on acceptance of change by involving the whole organisation
Willingness to change must cascade through every level of the organisation. If you want your employees’ wholehearted commitment to change, you need to involve them in the creation of the change. They need to help you design and implement the changes, as well as evaluate the effectiveness.
Try to identify critics of change early. Likewise, identify your advocates. Find the right message to address each group properly (including those who are fairly ambivalent). Even adversaries can be converted into allies with the right approach.
5) Make people accountable for tasks
Give responsibility to key agents in the change process and make them accountable for achieving objectives. This is important if you want to ensure your business improvements see the light of day. Take those advocates and make them the leads. They will give the momentum and enthusiasm needed to make things happen.
For this stage to be successful, you need to make sure everyone involved has the proper tools, talents, resources and authority for implementing change. If they feel the right base is in place, they will be much more willing to throw themselves positively in to the task at hand.
Change and the future of your business
Hopefully you can now appreciate that planning for the human side of change – that willingness – is vital to its success. When you have everyone in the business working towards the same clear goals, good things happen.
Over time, change should become part of the business, not a one-off initiative that needs to be managed. Once you get the hang of it, “change” simply becomes “continuous improvement” – the vital ingredient to keep your business one step ahead of your competitors. Change shouldn’t be reactive. It should be viewed as a constant opportunity to evolve the business. An opportunity to be turned to your advantage, not feared.
Ready to change? I can help you on your journey to continuous improvement. Get in touch to find out how.