You can't escape change in business, and dealing with shifting environments is not always easy. But times of change are also exciting, with plenty of opportunities for innovation, collaboration and new ways of doing things.
As small businesses grow, they can sometimes have trouble coming up with effective change management strategies, so we've collected some simple ones below.
What exactly is change management, and why is it so important? What can you do to ensure your business' growth and survival as you face the challenges of an ever-changing market? Here are a few quick ideas to get you up to speed on the most important concepts of managing change.
What Is Change Management?
It's essentially the multitude of ways to prepare, support and help people, teams and companies to deal with change.
Such changes might involve restructuring, merging with or acquiring another company, moving locations, opening new product lines, bringing in a new system, going through digital transformation, or something else.
There's no shortage of events that shape today's market, from rapid technological advancements to political strife and pandemics. When done right, change management ensures workers are on the same page as new working processes and technologies make their way into your business.
What Does Change Management Involve?
Even though change is often a necessity and the only logical step forward, people tend to resist. As a small business owner, you need to guide your employees throughout the process to make things run smoothly. Some of the most important things to focus on are:
- Planning ahead. Consider what exactly is changing. Is it a digital transformation, or are you merely altering work processes? Is the infrastructure ready? These are questions you need to answer before moving forward.
- Preparation. When is the change taking place? Which employees will this initiative impact the most? Knowing who to support and where to allocate resources before—and during—the change is crucial to success.
- Management. Is everyone on the same page? Design defined communication and training plans to avoid misunderstandings and limit resistance. The sooner you communicate and train your employees, the easier the transition will be.
- Reinforcement. Old habits die hard. Don't be surprised if employees resort to outdated or retired practices once you've implemented the changes. It's okay to be lenient during the transition period, but be prepared to introduce reinforcement mechanisms if your goals aren't met.
Depending on the project, the actual process will differ slightly. As long as you can anticipate changes to the change plan (!) and quickly take action, you'll always be one step ahead of the competition.
Why Is Change Management So Important?
Change is inevitable, which is why managing it is so important. The benefits are plenty, whether we're talking about a small business transitioning into the digital age or a larger business making use of specialised tools and software.
Having a well-defined change management strategy in place is crucial because:
- Change doesn't wait. Sometimes it's not about whether you like change, but whether you're prepared to handle the amount of change that's coming your way. Proper change management is all about coming out of turbulence in a stronger state than before.
- Organisational change affects different individuals differently. Keep in mind that you're dealing with people, which means no single approach fits all. As a trusted employer, you need to offer flexible solutions and guidance to those who need it the most. No matter the project, your employees are the ones who will ultimately determine whether your efforts bear fruit.
- People adapt—and react—better to change with proper guidance. Without proper planning, you risk bringing unnecessary stress and confusion into the workplace. If the new processes and goals are not clear, productivity will take a hit as employees struggle to adapt.
- The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. Learning to embrace change—and investing in change management—is the best way to ensure your business' longevity.
There's no question about the importance of change management. To adapt to change is to remain competitive, successful, and creative, no matter what the world throws at you.
4 Simple Steps to a Successful Change Management Strategy
All businesses can benefit from a well-designed change management strategy, but where do you even begin? Here is a quick step-by-step guide to help you get started:
- Define and understand the change. The more you know about your new direction, the easier it will be to implement changes. Think deeply about the specific changes that need to be made. Solutions only come when you're familiar with the nature of a problem.
- Start simple. For example, 'digital transformation' is quite a lofty goal, but doesn't require a massive system overhaul. Suppose your team is growing fast and you need to better organise projects while also keeping communication channels open. In that case, look into Trello and Slack. If, on the other hand, you're looking for an efficient, paperless way to manage and record staff leave, Timetastic might be a good idea!
- Get everyone on board. As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being able to communicate with everyone on a more personal level. Before deciding on a new change, make sure you give people an opportunity to voice any concerns they have.
- Give it time. You can't—and shouldn't—expect people to change the way they work overnight. The secret to successful adjustments is giving employees plenty of time to adapt. Start by setting formal frameworks that demonstrate how processes are meant to be handled.
Take your time and plan ahead. In the unpredictable world of rapid change that we live in, an effective change management strategy can make all the difference.
Embracing the Future
Yes, change can strike fear into the heart of any small business owner. But embracing technology and making the change to digital software systems doesn't have to be stressful, provided you've developed a strong change management strategy.
Change doesn't happen overnight. Take it one step at a time. Set goals and identify specific areas that could use some improvement.
As Heraclitus once said: 'Change is the only constant in life'. By learning how to anticipate change, you'll improve your business' flexibility and be better prepared to face all kinds of challenges in the future.