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Change management

We all knew this year was going to go into the annals of history for the COVID-19 pandemic, the “black lives matter” movement. We now have to add the “SARS must go” movement as well. Clearly change is in the air. The pandemic had already ensured that we all started changing and these other events make it clear that everybody must be looking at change both in the workplace their personal lives and the government. Nobody is going to accept just what they are offered any more.

Even without external stimulus businesses must constantly evolve to remain relevant. TQM says we must remain customer focussed and must imbibe a culture of continuous change. Innovation is only exciting when you first introduce it. Very quickly it becomes the norm and customers are looking for even more innovation. Failure to change could lead to stagnation or, even worse, failure.

Very many companies fail with their change initiatives because they don’t know how to plan for, coordinate, and carry out change. There are some key steps that are key success factors. Organisational change can be either adaptive or transformational:

Adaptive changes are small, gradual changes undertaken to evolve products, processes, workflows, and strategies over time. Hiring a new team member to address increased demand or implementing a new work-from-home policy to attract more qualified job applicants are examples of adaptive changes.

Transformational changes are larger in scale and scope and often signify a dramatic and, occasionally sudden, departure from the status quo. Examples are launching a new product or business division, or deciding to expand internationally.

Change management is the process of guiding change from the earliest stages of conception and preparation, through implementation and, finally, to resolution. Change processes have starting conditions and a functional endpoint. The process in between is dynamic and unfolds in stages. Here’s a summary of the key steps in the change management process as culled from Harvard Business school on-line.

Prepare the organisation for change both logistically and culturally. Before delving into logistics, cultural preparation must first take place. Employees must be helped to recognize and understand the need for change. Awareness must be raised of the various challenges facing the organisation that are acting as forces of change and generating dissatisfaction with the status quo. Gaining this initial buy-in from employees who will help implement the change can remove friction and resistance later on.

A thorough and realistic plan for bringing about change must be developed. The plan should contain strategic goals that the organisation should work towards. Key performance indicators must be clearly stated, showing how success will be measured. What metrics need to be moved and what the current baseline is must be clearly identified. Project stakeholders and team members in terms of those who will oversee, those who need to sign off every critical stage and those responsible for implementation. Finally, the scope of the project scope must be clear. Clearly stating steps and actions.

A detailed communication plan is key as effective communication is a critical success factor. The overall plan should also account for any unknowns or roadblocks that could arise during the implementation process and would require agility and flexibility to overcome. Implementation just involves following the steps outlined in the change plan. Whether that involves changes to the organisation’s structure, strategy, systems, processes, employee behaviours, or other aspects During the implementation process, employees must be empowered to take the necessary steps so that the goals are achieved.

The change managers should also do their best to anticipate roadblocks and prevent, remove, or mitigate them once identified. Repeated communication of the organisation’s vision is critical throughout the implementation process to remind team members why change is being pursued.

Once the change initiative has been completed, change managers must prevent a reversion to the prior state or status quo. This is particularly important for organisational change related to processes, workflows, culture, and strategies. Without an adequate plan, employees may backslide into the “old way” of doing things, particularly during the transitionary period.

By embedding changes within the company’s culture and practices, it becomes more difficult for backsliding to occur. New organisational structures, controls, and reward systems should all be considered as tools to help change stick.

Just because a change initiative is complete doesn’t mean it was successful. Conducting analysis and review, or a “project post mortem,” can help business leaders understand whether a change initiative was a success, failure, or mixed result. It can also offer valuable insights and lessons that can be leveraged in future change efforts.

Ask yourself questions like: Were project goals met? If yes, can this success be replicated elsewhere? If not, what went wrong?

Without understanding the underlying forces making change necessary, you may not effectively address the underlying causes that have necessitated change, making it impossible to succeed.

The change manager may not be in Human Resources (HR) but usually play a big role in the planning and implementation process. Please look through your systems processes and people to ensure the necessary change has been implemented to keep your customers satisfied bearing in mind that your employees are also your customers.

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