It’s the New Year, and an exciting time to get projects moving, put ideas into action and make a fresh start. Maybe you’ve archived your work from last year – setting up fresh folders and tidying your desktop. This impulse to get prepared is an important way to tell your brain you are ready to set out on a new journey. Simple actions like making lists, having a tidy and clear-out – these are ways to prepare and create the right conditions for change.
This applies equally to organisations. A number of different research studies* show there is a direct correlation between how ready an organisation is for change and embedding change successfully. Organisations need to start preparing their people and teams, and creating the right environment, long before change actually happens.
If you are facing change in your organisation, here is a checklist for what you can do to help get ready or prepare:
1. Clarify the extent and scope of change needed
Understand what must be preserved and maintained during change. For instance, if you have a really good culture for teamwork and collaboration, you don’t want to lose that. Or perhaps it’s important to maintain standards of service level agreements with customers during the change process.
2. Establish clear roles, reporting lines and ground rules
Has a change team been set up for designing and implementing this change, are they clear on their roles and how they’ll work with each other? Often these teams are formed at short notice, with people from different divisions and locations, so they may be working together for the first time. Team members should agree on the processes to follow for raising issues, reporting, and making decisions.
3. Check the reasons for the change
Is the reason for change clear and also the level of urgency around it, i.e. is it really critical for the business to do this immediately or is there time to phase the change in gradually?
4. Test ideas and gather more information
Before finalising the approach or attempting to do any detailed plans, gather more information to refine ideas and perhaps run a pilot. Arrange forums to talk to people who will be affected by the change and get their perspectives on how to go about this.
5. Assess the level of change management capability in the organisation
It’s important to have an experienced and credible change team to help make changes happen. Assess if there is a skills gap and how to get more support for the team if this is needed.
6. Consider capacity – people, systems, processes
How much extra are people going to be expected to do on top of their day-to-day commitments? Often people are so stretched already that they do not have the time to be involved in change activities as well. Consider how this burden can be eased, perhaps by arranging for temporary fill-ins to do their operational tasks.
7. Get people engaged and listen to their concerns
Allow people to voice their grievances and concerns (better out than in!), otherwise these fester and amplify, becoming much bigger problems and generating greater resistance. People want to feel heard. Create opportunities for dialogue and tap into the expertise of communications specialists within your organisation if necessary, so you can tell the story of the proposed change in a way that resonates with all those involved.
When managing change, and the impact of change, it’s tempting to just “roll your sleeves up and get stuck in”, but scheduling time for these preparatory tasks is critical for helping changes to really stick.
The Change Management Practitioner qualification offers a range of models and routes to successful change, so you can find out what things can really make a difference for individuals, teams and organisations.
* Todnem 2007, Roberto and Levesque 2005