Sunday, 6 January 2019

How to make Change Succeed in the Workplace

How to create, drive and sustain change in the workplace 

Executive Summary

Change is the only constant in business.The challenge is that success reduces the need for change, until it is too late. Businesses which continually succeed do so because they respond to the changes in their market. Those which can adopt the quickest and proactively succeed in adapting and developing to meet their customers needs, succeed at the expense of those that are unable, unwilling or slowest to adapt.  The drivers of change in business are often driven by a company failing to achieve outcomes in turnover and profit. Change of course is easy to talk about doing, but difficult to achieve.  Changing anything that exists takes more than suggestions, words or even plans. In this article I want to share how I work with high growth organisations to create and sustain change and remove the blocks and active opposition to change within an organisation.

In today's flat rather than traditional hierarchical structures, change is delivered by specialist high impact teams are often using dynamic agile business techniques, rather than traditional command and control annual planning changes. That removal of traditional hierarchy, to create and deliver tailored change plans, provide quicker localised and holistic (mentored) support in creating change. That allows supported change to be sustained by a a specialist team, not necessarily in-house, (or line managed) providing flexible support. While this type of change provides speed it can also generate resistance, although a different type of resistance than the traditional command and control "tell em" approach.

Resistance to change from either traditional or the more modern will occur if the leadership team do not have a proactive change strategy in place. Key to that strategy is he the ability to focus not on the change itself, but on the outcome of being able to make and sustain change, ensuring that the business unit is fit for purpose after the change step is made.

Here are a few ways which I have used to make change sustainable:-   

Leadership is vital in making change successful. Change in key areas such as culture (and let's face it most change  often about cultural change within a division) must be led by the leadership team. Leaders cannot delegate shifts in culture, either in traditional or modern structured organisations, they must lead it. It is more than just by-in needed by leaders for change to be successful, leaders must lead from the front. Cultures within a company are established, driven and supported by the leadership team, they set the pace, either at the corporate or unit level, so cultural change must led by the leadership.

Leadership often does not see that they set and define the culture, that also means that the leadership does not need to make changes within themselves. Changing the corporate culture from the top is an essential part of making change happen so that it is sustained.  Leaders must inspire, believe in and lead form the front from change to be more than a fashion or fad.      

1. Clear Vision from Change 

Change is ultimately not about the process of change, but the outcome. Successful change focus on the outcome it delivers, even if that change is only a stepping stone phase.  Creating and setting the post change environment, the outcome is a vital first step in making change successful.

2. Team Structure

Creating the change team, giving people the roles and responsibilities to create and deliver change , stretching people and developing  the potential for personal and team development.

3. Set Stretch Goals. 

Whether just benchmarking the competition or creating a completely new model for delivery, change needs to have goals, but don't talk about 5% better, change only happens if you stretch people to double the team's performance. Without the stretch you won't get real change.

4. Don't Over Plan The Change

Change does not work if you over plan it.  Change succeeds when it is both an evolving process of discovery and of inclusive involvement. If you only provide a total change package there is no buy-in to those on the ground (or the leadership and management team), so change becomes enforced and therefore resisted. The second element of change is that over planning also removes or reduces flexibility in response.  

5. Passionate Leadership 

Leaders must not only be the agents of change but also chief cheerleader, motivating and driving change consistently throughout the whole change process. Active involved leadership (passion) is not only about visibility but also to drive the leading players and pull up the slower, resisting or passive elements in making change.   Emotional leadership is an important part in creating and transferring believe in change.

6. Rationale Argument for Change

While emotions matters, so does rationale in carrying people forward. People buy with their hearts but confirm with their heads. The importance of rationale arguments, supported by either (or both) perception or hard evidence for change is an essential element in carrying the team forward with change.

7. Overcome the Depression Point with a Ladder

The pain point or depression point, is the low point in the change curve, the area where the change is under way, initial optimism has evaporated the pain of change is most apparent, because no tangible benefits are yet materialising. It is at this point that the leadership needs to be personally driving change by proving a ladder (simple steps) that deliver tangle progress.

8. Empower the Front-line 

For change to happen and to be sustainable the front-line of the change needs to be in charge of delivering change. This is difficult in traditional command and control companies, delegating power and authority to the front end of the operation is a challenge, but one which organisations must embrace if change is to be successful. for change to succeed the front end of any operation must feel its benefits and be empowered to drive it through to completion.

9. Allow A Culture of Trial and Error 

In both traditional and modern organisational cultures the most successful change happens when people can try new things, without fear of failure. That ability to have space in which to try changes, safe failure, allows people to try new ideas (within safe limits) without being judged. One successful measure of change cultures is to measure how many new ideas are generated, tried and tested.

10. Positive Solution Provision. 

Leading change is more than just saying well one and get on with it. Leaders must be a source of ideas, not necessarily answers but sources of inspiration, or of resources which can support change. Providing suggestions and fresh support, internally and externally to enable and support change throughout the whole process including post change to re-enforce and sustain change.  

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