Think & Reflect. The first step in implementing change is to stop and think before taking action. Sometimes the natural reaction for a business owner is to jump straight in and make immediate radical changes.
This rarely works. It’s best to block some time to plan the change either by locking yourself away at work for a few hours or actually driving to a neutral venue (park, cafe etc) away from your business premises. You need an unbroken focus to plan for change without interruption.
Map out your Initial Changes. Document a first draft of your changes. This should just be a summary and doesn’t need to look pretty. Make sure you jot down the steps required and likely timing. Note any major gaps or barriers that need to be considered in implementing the plan. Draft an initial time line you believe is achievable and a working deadline for implementation.
Seek input from Stakeholders & Advisors. Now you’ve drafted your plan alone, it’s time to discuss this with other stakeholders and advisors. Seek input from your stakeholders which include business partners, management, key employees and customers/suppliers (if applicable). Ask for feedback from your trusted advisors where appropriate. Ask them to be open and frank. Listen intently and don’t get defensive. Adopt a collaborative approach to planning for change.
Collective Intelligence. Now that you have the collective intelligence of your stakeholders and advisors, it’s time to revisit your initial plan for change. Edit and amend this based on the feedback to maximize the chance of you implementing your changes efficiently and effectively without compromising business operations.
Finalize Changes. You now should have documented your final changes and clearly understand the steps to be taken and timeline for implementation. Speak again with key parties involved in implementing the changes to confirm exactly “what, when and how” things will be changing and the role of each party. Ask everyone to confirm their clear understanding.
Diarise Implementation. Ensure all parties involved have diarised agreed actions for implementing the changes.
Step 2 – Making Changes – Implementation
Consistency. Just prior to implementing the changes, check in with key parties to ensure that you are “one voice” and that everyone is aware of both their roles/actions and those of others in the process. Without this, the success of implementing change is challenged even before it’s started.
Manage Expectations. Manage everyone’s expectations by being consistent and explaining the changes openly in meetings. Other than confidential information, avoid being secretive.
Forum is Important. The forum for meeting with people to explain change is more important than you probably think. Consider the appropriateness of group meetings, team meetings or one-to-one meetings before booking a meeting. Delivery is key and it’s all about everyone accepting and committing to the change.
Let People Speak. One of the most common complaints by people in managing change is that they didn’t get to speak about it. Make sure that adequate time (both during meetings and afterward) is available for individuals to ask questions or seek clarity. Remember that we want “everyone on board”. They may not agree with the changes you are making but they will probably at least respect you for the process adopted.
Be Flexible. If you receive critical information or feedback while you are implementing change, don’t dig in and be totally inflexible. Change is fluid and it often pays to yield and give up some ground when a “better way” is presented to you.
Step 3 – After The Change – Monitor & Measure
Monitor Change. Don’t be passive after implementing your changes. Proactively monitor the change implemented and review performance against how the situation was prior to the change.
Measure Change. Identify and seek from involved parties any quantitative and qualitative measures that you can use to measure the change.
Remember to Check In. This is a killer. Make sure you check in with everyone after change has been implemented. Everyone’s different and react differently to change. People’s views often change after change is implemented and you need to be aware of this. The last thing you need is a silent saboteur who has disconnected from supporting the change and is undoing all your good work. This is often passive behavior rather than vindictive and can be hard to identify. So talk to people and listen.
Report the News. There is nothing worse than making changes and then no-one ever hears the outcome. Don’t fall for the management by abdication trap of thinking “everyone knows what’s going on” They don’t! Report to everyone on the results and outcomes the change has delivered (both good and bad).
Periodic Reviews. Schedule periodic reviews with key people after implementing change to monitor and maximize benefits. Business conditions constantly change and this forum allows you to catch up on circumstances that have changed since implementation.
Darren Bourke, Business Influence, 2008. You are welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete (including the “about the author” information at the end).