Change Management Minus the Jargon

Changes for Business Structure

With all the jargon around about Change Management, it can be hard to find straight-shooting practical advice. Essentially, change management is about making (usually large) improvements to an organisation in a structured (as opposed to haphazard or chaotic,) way. Putting it simply, there are three key elements for successful Change Management: planning, consultation, and communication.

Your Business Goal

With planning, you first need to define your goal, or “vision.” What will the organisation look and feel like once the change has occurred? What are the expected benefits of change?

Mapping your Business

Next step is to understand how things are currently done. You need to map out your current processes. This may be tedious, but it is essential when getting from one place to another. How can you reach your destination without first working out where you are? Don’t map out the way you think things are done. Get out and ask the people who do it, to make sure you understand.

Involve Your Staff

Now the fun, creative part begins. Map out what you’d like your processes to be. Brainstorm all your crazy ideas. This is a great chance to involve your people. Talk to them about your vision, inspire them, and gather their ideas. You don’t have to use all ideas, but seriously consider each one. You may be surprised and inspired yourself. If you are working in a large organisation, you won’t be able to involve everyone, but be sure to involve at least some of the people from each area who will be directly affected.

After selecting the best ideas (realistically someone has to make a decision and take the lead), outline the way you expect your processes to run once the change has occurred. Be very specific. Think about each task that people will need to do in your “new world” and map them out. Think not just about daily operational tasks, but also occasional tasks. Think through the practicalities of each task and think about the things that could go wrong. Put estimates on how long you think these tasks should take to perform. In the new world there should be less to do, it should be easier to work, or there should be substantial added value from the way things are done. Make sure that your new process covers everything that is done currently.

Take your new process map and consult again with the people who will be doing the tasks. Check that your processes are sensible and achievable. I have seen brand new plants designed by engineers where operators had to load materials on one side of the machine then walk the length of the line to get to the other side where the control panel was located, to start the line. Be prepared to make changes and be open to new ideas.

Plan for Change

Create a plan for the transition. Inevitably some things need to be done before others. Presumably you can’t close your business down one day and start it up changed and revitalised the next, so you may have to stage changes or run concurrent systems for a while until you have remedied the bugs in the new system.

Some people make the mistake of making momentous changes throughout the organisation all at once. Unless you’ve made similar changes many times before, don’t believe you’re that smart. There’s a good chance it could turn into momentous failure. Running smaller pilots, or staging and stabilising changes before implementing the next, allows you to sort issues that you hadn’t thought of, so that the next stage runs smoothly. Running a pilot helps you manage the risk if things don’t go according to plan.

Implement and Communicate

When you are ready to start implementing changes, communicate to all who will be involved or affected. Call them together, present your vision, explain the benefits, and explain how you came to the plan of action. Ask for their support to make things better. If enough people were consulted in the planning stage, they are likely to support you even if you don’t go with all their ideas. If you haven’t been able to involve people earlier, at least communicate at this stage. They are much less likely to feel threatened if they understand what is happening. See if you can involve them now, listen to their concerns, and respond to them. Ensure you have adequate documentation and that you train your teams how to use the new systems. Make sure they know how to use them properly and check that the training was effective.

Consultation and communication with the people who will be affected will reap tremendous rewards. You’ll create a better plan, make less mistakes that you’ll have to undo, have their support when implementing and have a much better result.

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