By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International November 2013
Takeaways: An overview of managing change. What small organizations can do to leverage related skills. Three tips for applying some best practices for any size organization.\
How has your business changed recently, or how do you expect it to change in the near future? All businesses, large and small eventually undergo a major change and this is much more common and sometimes seemingly constant. They are also often undergoing small changes on a regular basis. Employee turnover, rapid adjustments in local market conditions, disasters, new market players disrupting the playing field and shifts in leadership are all common causes of organizations undergoing change.
Managing any organization has always involved managing change, large or tiny, whether it is a manufacturing or professional services enterprise, a non-profit, a school or a government entity. What has occurred over the past 50 years, particularly influenced by the continually increasing sharing of all types of information, is not necessarily that things are changing more or faster. It is really that we are able to predict and create or control change more effectively. We now have more timely information within our reach.
Paradigm Shift in management techniques
This paradigm shift has produced new techniques in management which are now generally referred to as Change Management. A number of individuals, mostly executives at large companies, are credited with leading the development of these techniques. They in turn, have generously credited various other people, employees, consultants and academics, who have greatly contributed to those development efforts. Significantly, those techniques are being widely shared as the thought leaders in management write books and give speeches, and consultants take those “best practices” to their clients.
Perhaps the most common issue I encounter is that small businesses, non-profits and even medium-size companies feel it is beyond them to even consider learning about and using these techniques. I also find that some very forward-thinking small enterprises, eagerly adopt many of these techniques and their level of success is exponentially greater than that of the ones that say “we are too small for that”.
What can an organization of any size do to acquire some of that knowledge or expertise and effectively apply it in their organization? A great first step is to accept that managing change must become a proactive behavior in leading an organization or a team of people. Learning to think about the organization in the context of the whole environment in which it exists is the next most valuable step a manager can take. This is part of what is called Systems or Strategic Thinking.
Additionally, following are some key concepts that, again, any organization, can use to help manage change more effectively:
- Continually scan the FUTURE environment of your organization by considering how each of your stakeholders will be affecting the organization at a defined point in time in the future. Document what you come up with when discussing this with your colleagues and use the results to define the changes you feel will be needed. Be sure to also document the outcomes that you desire from those changes and make sure you have agreement among those of you responsible for implementing the change.
- Create a clear plan for the change. Think of it as a discreet project but one that will affect other parties. Then list the parties that will be affected and decide how you will inform or involve them in making sure the change occurs and sticks. Also have a plan for how you will coach your direct reports about how they can assist in making the change happen.
- Make sure you link your desired outcomes to measures that will help you track your progress toward those outcomes and document your quick successes, as these will help to maintain excitement about the change and its positive effects.
Essentially, stay focused on the fact that you will be moving from your current state to a future state. You need to manage the transition between the two and if you don’t make sure the people affected by the change are involved from the beginning and coached through the process, you are not likely to create a successful, lasting change and achieve the outcomes you desire.