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Delivering successful change management: 9 tenets for leaders to consider

This blog post has been contributed by Lian Stevenson, Director, SGK Consulting, UK/I.  

The last few weeks have brought drastic change in how we conduct business around the world. We are now living the ‘new normal’ in both our personal lives and our work lives, an adjustment that has been relatively easy for some, but for the majority, it has been a huge undertaking.  

It is unclear what lies in store for us in the coming weeks, months and even years as the impact of this pandemic continues to develop, but the likelihood is that we will need to make considerable and transformational changes. We need to be ready to do that.

As organisations are forced to change how they work in these difficult times and think about how they will need to work in the future, they will inevitably face challenges and even resistance in implementing those changes. Why is this the case? The success of any transformational change is ultimately determined by the people who are required to do the work and implement those changes.

Here, we summarise the importance of people in change and some of the key elements that leaders in business should consider when embarking on any transformational change.

Successful Change Management begins and ends with people.

Leaders must think carefully about how changes are delivered because ultimately you are unlikely to meet your objectives if the people doing the work don’t want to change.

According to Prosci 2018 Benchmarking data, you are six times more likely to meet your objectives with an effective Change Management plan.

There is a lot of buzz around the notion of Change Management, but it is often not fully understood in terms of the impact it can have. The message from leaders and managers is, “We just need to communicate to the business about what we need to do”, but what employees often feel is, “It’s about reducing headcount to reduce costs” or “It’s another idea that just won’t work”.

As an organisation goes through transformational change, whatever the size, its impact can vary. The change can bring with it feelings of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity amongst employees. Individuals will have different reactions to the change subject to their personal circumstances and position within the company and will go through their own journey of acceptance to the future state.

Leaders therefore need to be empathetic in their behaviours.

People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.

People are often engrained in a way of working that is comfortable and familiar.  As such, one of the biggest challenges is driving a change in organisational culture and behaviour.

Change Management is about people; how employees are supported through their individual journey from their current state to the desired future state, and overcoming the hurdles of concern, dislike and mistrust.

What are the basic principles you need to consider as you embark upon your journey to the future state? We explain the 9 tenets of creating a seamless Change Management experience.

Clear Communication: To simply tell employees to change for the good of the company is not going to have the desired effect. Clear communication is absolutely key. This doesn’t mean endless emails of actions that require attention. Rather, it has to be considered, consistent, timely and appropriate for the audience.

Strong Sponsorship: A leader in the business, with influence, who believes in the change and who can lead from the front. This leader has to be active, visible and should participate in all activities required of them.

Align on the Message: As leaders and managers, the message has to be consistent. Talk about the change in a positive way and deliver it in the most appropriate way that instils trust and credibility.

Prepare Your Teams: Managers are key as they are the people close to the change and the people doing the work. Ensure they understand why the change is happening, what the benefits are and importantly give them the tools, knowledge and ability to be able to support their teams through the transition.

Build Awareness: This is the #1 factor that causes resistance to any change. Communicate the change appropriately to your employees. Define clearly what the change is, why it needs to happen, and crucially why it is of benefit to them. Set the expectation of what you are asking them to do and give them structure in terms of how the change will happen.

Provide Tools: Provide them with knowledge of what they need to do in order to bring about lasting change. Consider what training is required and any resources that might be needed. How do you retain the knowledge and maintain best practice?

Provide Support and Reinforcement: Provide a two-way support framework to enable employees to ask questions, give feedback and make recommendations but enables you, as leaders, to provide relevant responses in a timely manner.

Anticipate and Mitigate Resistance: In most instances it will be relatively easy to identify potential agitators. Consider how to use your advocates to influence them and what can be done to reduce or eliminate the risk through communication, training and coaching.  

Review and Continuously Improve: Once the you’ve reached the desired future state, it’s important to measure success. How do the employees feel having gone through the transition? How do you reward the business for those successes? And importantly, what lessons have been learned so that when the need comes around again (and it inevitably will) change can be achieved even more seamlessly? What will you do differently?

So, as you are developing your ‘future normal’ and what that needs to look like, put yourselves in the shoes of your employees and develop your Change Management strategy with them at the heart of it. Only then will you truly succeed in achieving your desired future state.

About Lian Stevenson: Lian brings 19 years of experience delivering strategic content for a large portfolio of UK blue-chip retail brands. As part of SGK's Consulting Team, she has delivered initiatives to help CPG clients such as Britvic, J&J, General Mills, and Iceland deliver improved supply chain workflows, increase speed to market, streamline resources, and reduce overall costs. Lian is Lean Six Sigma accredited and is a certified change management practitioner.


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