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According to leadership and change expert Dr. Kotter, more than 70% of change projects or initiatives within an organisation fail. This is because organisations are not consistent or holistic in their approach to change management, nor are they effective in engaging their workforces to follow through.
Without change, companies run the risk of becoming stagnant. Whether it’s adopting new technologies, shifting from compliance work to accounting advisory, or hiring new staff to grow the business, change is intrinsic to survival.
Regardless of the size, change can be an intimidating thing. By following progressive steps, you can successfully implement any change, large or small, within your organisation.
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1. Create Momentum
For change to occur effectively, you’ll need company support. But people can’t support what they don’t understand, which is why open communication is key to building momentum. You'll need to:
1. Fully explain the proposed change
2. Push its merits and benefits, and
3. Outline the consequences if the change isn't made.
For example, transitioning from working from desktops, to using cloud technology, requires a lot of effort and energy. Convince reluctant staff to make the switch by:
1. Outlining which cloud software programs the company will be using and why
2. Backing your proposal with case studies and reviews from similar-sized users
3. Explaining that if the company doesn't make the switch, you'd be unable to offer remote and flexible work options.
In order for change to be successful, Kotter suggests that 75% of a company's management needs to support it. Getting this support is the first step towards implementing effective change.
2. Form a Powerful Coalition
Convincing coworkers that change is necessary can often be a difficult undertaking. It will take strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organisation. You need to find and bring together effective leaders throughout your company to spearhead the campaign. They don’t necessarily have to be in the upper echelons of the company hierarchy and could belong to any area of the business.
For example when a business begins its journey with Spotlight Reporting’s suite of tools, there’s at least one person who our tools really resonate with. This person naturally steps into the role of “Spotlight Champion”, and becomes the go-to expert within the company on using Spotlight Reporting.
Always encourage people who your proposed change resonates with, and make them part of the leadership team for the process, if they aren’t already. Once formed, your "change coalition" needs to work together to continue to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.
To strengthen chances for success:
- Ask for commitment from your change coalition.
- Work on team building within your change coalition.
- Have daily stand ups to ensure you’re communicating regularly.
- Understand your team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Ensure that you have a good mix of people from different levels within your firm.
3. Create a Vision for Change
A clear vision helps everyone understand why you're asking them to do something. When people can see for themselves what you're trying to achieve, the directives you give become logical.
To create a clear vision, you should:
- Determine the values that are central to the change.
- Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what the future of your organisation looks like.
- Create a strategy to execute that vision.
- Ensure that the team leading the change are all on the same page.
4. Communicate the Vision
How you communicate your vision will determine your success. You will find your message may conflict with other day-to-day communications to begin with. To ensure it stays top-of-mind, make sure you communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.
This is how to do it:
- Talk often about the vision and change.
- Address people’s concerns and anxieties about change openly and honestly.
- Make sure the vision is applied to all aspects of the operations. For example ensure it’s added to the training and induction program, and is encapsulated in the relevant job descriptions and evaluations.
- Lead by example!
5. Remove Obstacles
So you've been communicating your vision and getting buy-in for the change from the organisation. But is anyone resisting it? Are there any processes or structures that are throwing up obstacles? Continually checking for difficulties that may arise and then removing them can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and can help the change move forward.
To keep pushing forward, you can:
- Identify, or hire, change managers whose core role is to deliver the change.
- Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they're in line with your vision.
- Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
- Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what's needed.
- Take action to quickly remove barriers, rather than letting them fester.
6. Create Short-Term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Create short-term targets, not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Each win that you produce will keep staff motivated, and help keep them on task.
Be sure to:
- Celebrate your wins with your team. Praise those who are winning.
- Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
- Don't choose expensive early targets. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
- Reward people who help you meet the targets in a meaningful way.
7. Build on the Change
Making one change to your company’s processes, systems, or vision is fantastic. But for each change made, there will be lessons learned, and these lessons can help with the next change. Growth and improvement should be constant—there will always be something that can be made better. Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right, and identify what you can improve.
- After every win, analyse what went right, and what needs improving.
- Set goals to continue building on the momentum you've achieved.
- Develop a culture of continuous improvement.
- Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new people to lead the change.
8. Anchor the Change in Your Culture
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation. Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is present across all aspects, giving it a solid place in your company. It's also important that your company's leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in.
- Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
- Include the new ideals and values when hiring and training new staff, so it is present from the start.
- Publicly recognise key members and enablers of the change.
- Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.
The principles for this article were taken from Kotter’s 8-Step Program for Leading Change.