Change can be hard, but it’s often inevitable and necessary for companies to ensure future success. Companies budget significant amounts of money for training and consultants to help them improve employee skills and business processes. But is that enough? The truth is, oftentimes these initiatives do not lead to lasting change regardless of programs implemented or budget spent. The main reason is that they spend little to no time or effort actually managing the change internally.
No one wants to fail, especially when the stakes are so high. Changing people’s behaviors can be a huge task whether you’re a C-level executive or a sales leader because your plate is always full. However, if you’re trying to accomplish a strategic goal and this requires a change in skills, processes or technologies – or an entirely new way of doing business – then you’ll need to properly communicate, own, lead and measure the change.
Organizational change must happen from the top down to be successful. Everyone first must understand why the change is important and how it will benefit them. Employees need to believe that the change is worth the amount of risk, time, energy and/or money before they buy in. Once that happens, they will follow you, the leader, who is passionate about and fully vested in the change. Communicate your vision in simple, clear terms.
From there, managing change successfully is all about owning the change by participating and engaging in planning, decision making, implementation, and communication. Otherwise, the importance of the change will not reach everyone. And if it doesn’t reach everyone, then it won’t work.
And, remember, your team is used to the new “flavor of the month” change request where they are asked to jump through hoops to change, but no one at the top pays any heed to the new skill, process or technology.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, nor would you really want it to. Lead your teams by helping them focus and then consistently reinforce the change. Then divide the change initiative into bite-sized chunks by implementing a “crawl, walk, run” strategy so you can show success along the way.
Demonstrate the benefits of the change to your teams on an ongoing basis. For maximum impact, let your top employees tell others about their successes with the new initiative. Others will ultimately want to emulate those achievements as well.
Showing positive results of the change consistently over time is key to long-term adoption, and ultimately turning initiatives into good standard practices. Use surveys and focus groups to solicit and capture feedback from employees, customers or other stakeholders. Then publish those quantitative impacts such as adoption rates, cost savings, sales cycles, or win ratios. Qualitative outcomes are also important to highlight, such as customer comments on service improvements or employee sentiments on how their job has been enriched.
Effective organizational change requires discipline, focus, measurement and an eye towards the end goal. When executives feel a change is important and everyone understands that it is as well, everyone will follow. Get immersed in managing change early on so you can be part of the solution, decide how you’ll communicate its importance, and commit to using and engaging in the new process, tool or approach. You’ll have a much better chance of getting the return on investment on your initiative with very little downside.