To improve a company is to change it. Doing what you’ve always done means you’ll always get the same result. With British markets currently in such an uncertain state, the most successful companies are ones that can handle, respond to, and deal with change. Unless these changes are managed well, a business will not be able to successfully create a workplace culture that embraces change.
What is Change Management?
At its most fundamental definition, change management is simply a rigid, structured approach to move a company from a current state of working to a desired future state. What is often neglected from this definition is the effort required to ensure the business remains in the desired state. Change management must be considered from before the initiative has been started, until past the final changes have been made to make sure they can be sustained. Otherwise, the company risks slipping back to the original, undesired state.
Most changes within a business will at some point have an impact on the workforce, whether it is disruption to their standard daily routine, anxiety over the effects of the change or a lack of clarity on the reasons behind the change. These factors, as well as others, can cause resistance to change from the workforce that must be engaged with and managed effectively for it to be overcome. Change management should be approached holistically and provide a comprehensive overview of the initiative to ensure that the change is successful.
Creating Effective Change
At Fluere we believe there are two key points to consider before deciding to launch a change initiative:
What level of trust exists between the employees and managers? This is a big indicator of how easily the transition will be between the current state of working to the desired future state.
Which type of change is being undertaken? Large step changes that aim to make dramatic improvements to the business or smaller, increment changes that gradually move towards an ideal future state for the business. This topic is discussed in more detail in our previous blog Step Vs Increment Change.
In our experience, the failure to implement successful change is down to the lack of basic change management principles as well as inadequate resources devoted to overcoming resistance to change.
Essential Elements of Change Management
According to John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor and published author on managing organisational change, there are eight steps in an effective change that must be managed well:
Establish urgency: Reject the current status quo and inspire people to overcome complacency, oppose the natural inertia and generate tangible improvement objectives
Create guiding team: Launch a team that understands the reasons for the change initiative, has the ability to guide the change and the skillset to lead the workforce.
Develop vision and strategy: A vision relating to the desired future state must be established by the guiding team, with an effective strategy to reach it.
Communicate change: Extensive communication with the appropriate people, including appealing and responding to their needs helps to create acceptance of the change.
Remove obstacles and empower action: Create the conditions of success as well as recognise and reward progress and achievements throughout the process.
Generate short term wins: Consolidate, convince and motivate with tangible results from a manageable number of bite-sized projects, where each stage completed before starting the next.
Compound results: Encourage and generate continuous improvements and ongoing progress reporting by thinking in the long-term and acting in the short-term.
Embed change: Generate a change positive culture through promotion or recruitment of new change leaders, prove the value of successful change to the business and employees.
By following all of Kotter’s 8 steps, successful change initiatives can be manged from their inception through to their sustained completion. If just one of the steps is neglected, or ignored, the chances of the change initiative being a success are dramatically reduced. The matrix displayed below gives an indication of the types of issues and problems faced for each missing link of Kotter’s steps.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
It’s likely that somewhere on your business's journey through Kotter’s 8 steps that you will encounter resistance to the change being implemented. This can often be a make or break stage in change initiatives, as without acceptance from your workforce, change is unlikely to become embedded in the company’s culture. It may begin with some negativity towards the proposed change or be a result of ignorance or denial about the impact change may have, but any resistance should be dealt with as soon as possible to keep the project running as smoothly as possible.
Any resistance to the change that comes from a lack of understanding, or negativity towards the transformation may result in open hostility from the workforce and must be understood before it can be overcome. Understanding where the resistance is coming from should be done in a calm, respectful one-to-one setting. Attempting to take on an entire workforce into accepting a proposed change is a challenging task, where any difficult individuals may be more receptive to an open and frank discussion about their perception of the change initiative.
Once employees start to understand what is going on, they will be more likely to accept the change and act on it, as illustrated on the change curve below. Gaining a few ‘key players’ to act as an instigator between the management and workforce can result in getting everyone to recognise how the changes will benefit them and help to perform their job better. Communication between both management and the workforce is key, and needs to be transparent to give individuals a sense of control as well as eliminate any fear from unknown reasoning or effects of the change.
There is no secret formula for successfully dealing with resistance to change, only through perseverance, negotiation and clear communication can resistance be successfully overcome. The foundations of the change initiative must be strong, with a detailed plan, appropriate management team and high level of understanding about the reasons behind why the change is occurring. Once these elements of the project are completed, the remaining elements will, hopefully, fall into the correct place.
Change with Fluere
If you are confused how to apply Kotter’s 8 steps or frustrated with resistance you may have experienced during your own change initiative, then feel free to talk with the Fluere team about it in more detail.
Typically, we help out growing businesses that know they have the ability to become even more successful, but are unclear on the means to get there.
If anything you’ve read about sounds familiar to you, you can call us on 0113 250 6768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what we can do to change your business for the better.