7 Easy Steps to Manage Change

Palm, Kodak and Borders—do you know what these three companies have in common? They are all former industry leaders that failed to listen to or understand the market. Examples like this are everywhere and prove that businesses must grow and evolve. Whether it’s because of growth, a shift in business focus, or a change in technology, in order to survive, you MUST be able to understand and manage change.

Change management is a term that is thrown about freely. It’s a structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved. As a leader, following an actual change management process helps you implement change easier and with more efficient results.

Leaders, here are the 7 steps necessary to manage change:

What You Do Every Day

Step 1: Be Prepared

You need to continually evaluate sales data, changes in the marketplace, and activity by the competition to be able to anticipate change. When you do this, you can see change coming--it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Step 2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Ongoing communication keeps employees informed of the conditions that may cause a change. Change is easier to implement when communication has already been happening. When employees understand what causes change, it helps to break down resistance to that change.

What You Do When You Implement a Change:

Step 3: Build and Document a Strong Case

When you implement a change in your business, it is typically to accomplish one goal--to make your business better. Establishing and documenting the case for the change is the foundation to successful implementation.

 A written plan should include the vision for the future, the purpose of the change, the resources allocated, the departments affected by the change, a time line, the measurements of success, the training needed, the communication plan, the review dates, and contingency plans.

 Step 4: Follow Your Communication Plan

This enables everyone to see exactly what is happening and the direction your business is taking. Share such things as: Why is the change necessary? What will the organization look like once the change is implemented? How does this change make the organization better? How will it make each employee’s life better? When questions occur, make sure you take time to listen to and address employees’ concerns. When team members can explain the long-term benefits of the change, you know you’ve shared the plan successfully.

 Step 5: Implement and Learn to Flow with Change

Many times, outside factors, such as moves by the competition or shifts in the marketplace, can be out of your control and will alter your plans. When this happens--DO NOT PANIC. You need to flow with the changes and alter your plans accordingly. Analyze the factors as thoroughly as possible before adjusting the phases of your change management plan. Make sure to communicate this adjustment.

 Step 6: Celebrate and Recognize Success

Many times, this doesn’t happen. In order to keep up the morale and the momentum, make sure you recognize and celebrate group and individual successes.

 Step 7: Document the Action-Action Review

The final step is the after-action review. Evaluate what went well and what needs to be improved for the next change.

 If your business doesn’t change – it WILL become obsolete. Be prepared with a process that ensures you implement change effectively and efficiently.