Businesses today are faced with potential change on a regular basis. As technologies continue to improve, businesses must modernize and readjust existing processes and procedures. The rise of new trends in consumer spending presents businesses with the need to continually update their products. Such changes require internal alterations as well. As businesses realign their labor force to meet new goals, priorities are addressed and reassigned, with some workers taking on new responsibilities. With such a variety of change encountered by businesses, creating a standard of procedures and policies for new company changes has become increasingly important for managers wishing to ensure all types of transitions remain as smooth as possible.
What is change management, and why does change need to be managed? Change management can mean different things in departments versus organizations versus industries, with managers in each favoring certain ideas on how to manage change in their particular business. Generally, however, change management involves a few simple principles.
The BNET Business Dictionary defines change management as “the coordination of a structured period of transition from situation A to situation B in order to achieve lasting change within an organization.” Similarly, the Change Management Learning Center defines change management as “the process, tools and techniques to manage the people-side of business change to achieve the required business outcome, and to realize that business change effectively within the social infrastructure of the workplace.”
Change management is a process of overseeing and facilitating change at any level where it occurs. It is up to management teams, however, to decide exactly how this change will be addressed.
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To any business facing the prospect of change, the first step is to create a climate for change. Change can intimidate, or even frustrate, and it is vital for management to decrease resistance by communicating the importance of the change, guiding the teams where change occurs and providing a clear vision to jump-start the transition process.
Once the climate is favorable for change, the next step is to engage and enable the organization. When change is required, it is important to allocate responsibility. Does this change require a specific individual or a team for implementation? Is it an organizational change to be enacted at multiple levels? If so, who will be responsible for coordinating these different levels? Having each of these questions answered can help guide the change process and reduce ambiguities on responsibility. During this stage, it is also important to establish clear communication to motivate buy-in and create short-term wins to keep morale and enthusiasm at high levels.
With the organization engaged and individuals and teams enabled and motivated, it is time to implement and sustain the change. At this point it is important to keep focused and maintain the pressure to achieve the desired outcome. While this step may seem rudimentary, it is nonetheless the case that some managers can lose focus and “ease up” during the process. If the actual goal changes throughout the change process, do not hesitate to adjust responsibilities or procedures accordingly to keep the drive and focus sustained.
Once the change is implemented and the project has been completed, it is time to solidify the new status-quo and transition the organization from a state of flux to a state of permanence in order to sustain the change.
With the general principles in place, one final step in the change management process is a review. Despite the best efforts of management personnel to communicate effectively and properly assign responsibilities, change is fundamentally a dynamic process. After completing a period of transition, it is important to review the aspects of your process that did, or did not, work effectively, then learn from the results. When your business faces change in the future, it can be a benefit to have documented cases of previous procedures that were most beneficial to your organization. With a change management team that learns from any inevitable mistakes, any new changes that arise can be approached without the fear or resentment that they may otherwise create.