Managing a Business/managerial economics
How to accommodate changes and promote progress for the firm of your choice in the face of constant challenges.
Whether it’s economic challenges, competitive pressures, talent or skill shortages, quality issues, the need to address growth or expansion, innovation initiatives, product or service development, or cultural changes, as the leader, you are the overseer of change management. Managing the change cannot be an afterthought—and managing the change initiative is not the same thing as managing the change process. The change initiative is what you want to do; the change process is how you get people to do it. Once you realize a change initiative is not a onetime event but a multistage process, you’ll exponentially increase the odds of success:
• By getting buy-in.
• By engaging people in the process.
• By creating a “change newspaper” for all to read.
• By providing regular feedback.
• By celebrating success.
• By monitoring “backsliding” and addressing it immediately.
Underpinning the process is communication; not mundane communication but focused, relentless communication with everyone in the organization, from the top down. If leadership is not 100 percent committed, and articulating a message that inspires unequivocal buy-in from everyone, it will fail.
People want information. It must be clear and easily understood, and it must cover all aspects of the change—what it will involve and how it will evolve. All their questions must be answered. You may not get total agreement, but make certain that answers sufficiently address concerns. Your most important answer may be the one to the question, Why can’t things stay the same?
People will want to know: What’s in it for me? How does it affect me personally and change my life? What will I be doing differently? Is the company going to train me? Who’s going to help me get through this? How does it affect my stability with the company? Will it provide more opportunity for me?
Some other concerns to address: How will internal systems, processes, and procedures be affected? How will change affect our customers? How does the company profit from the change? Have other companies done this type of thing before?
Getting buy-in at the beginning of the process isn’t a onetime thing. Keeping people engaged, allowing them to influence the outcome, and continuing to answer their questions and concerns will ensure a collaborative success. Change must come through your people, not around them.
Engaging People in the Process
To become engaged, and remain engaged, people must have a clear understanding of what’s expected, what to do, and how to do it. Even simple things become complicated when not clear.
Leadership must engage management with a clear vision, language, and plan. Managers must interpret it correctly and translate it into language everyone can understand. Each individual involved must be able to see his link to the plan and role in it. Engagement will create ownership. Nothing difficult can ever be accomplished without giving people individual responsibility for making things happen.
To stay engaged, people must have the skills and tools to do what they’re asked. Don’t ever tell people what they’re supposed to do and then just walk away. Ask the contributors if they have the knowledge to do it; if they say no, either train them or assign them a task they’re better suited for. If they assure you they can achieve the expected results, ask them if they have everything they need. Never assume.
Create a “Change Newspaper”
To keep communication flowing, create an internal newspaper that keeps people informed about the latest project information. Break it up into four sections: the title of the project and a reminder of its purpose; progress to date; expected results and estimated completion date; and highlights of individuals’ or teams’ contributions. The frequency of publication depends on how important the project is and its scope. It could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Make it catchy, eye-grabbing. Add graphics to make it visually appealing and fun to read, even cartoons and humorous anecdotes about the project. Ask individuals and teams to contribute. The idea is not to demand that people read it, but to excite them to want to read it the instant it comes out.
Provide Regular Feedback
You’ve made the change-initiative process as positive as possible. You must do the same with feedback. The change may be painful to many, so reinforce how well they’re doing, as well as telling them what they need to do better. Make the feedback timely, and do it regularly (as needed). Everyone must row in the same direction—spurred on by a drumbeat, though, not a whip.
Keep the Big Picture in focus at all times. All feedback conversations should be only about the project. You are providing feedback on task performance, not job-related personal-performance feedback. Never confuse the two. Never criticize people or teams in front of others. When you’re giving feedback, ask for feedback in return.
Positive recognition begets repeated success. Recognize excellent performance with a public celebration:
• It reinforces the reason for the change initiative—why it was necessary.
• It validates the process that achieved the result and compels people to use the methodology again.
• It builds the team’s self-confidence and inspires them to higher achievement.
• It strengthens teamwork and demonstrates how pulling together can execute a well-thought-out plan.
• It conveys to everyone that they work for a great company—a winning organization.
• Even if parts of the project didn’t work, it emphasizes what does work.
• It keeps positive momentum going on an upward trajectory.
• It enhances organizational culture and team bonding.
Monitor “Backsliding” and Address It Immediately
Success tends to lead to complacency. After all the hard work is completed, we can relax, right? Wrong. It’s important to remind people that the change initiative is a journey, not a destination. It’s up to leadership to continually reinforce the behaviors that achieved the results. A great way to do this is to keep the newspaper going, perhaps reducing its frequency. But the high level of communication must continue.