Warren Bennis said “In life change is inevitable, in business change is vital” and this statement has never been truer.
The world around us is changing at a rapid pace and those who choose to ignore it will be left behind, they will become unemployable and possess skills that are no longer required or needed by employers.
There is a whole new field of change-management and a new job description called change-managers. Most businesses in the small to medium business categories don’t have the funds to pay for change-managers nor the staff numbers to warrant employing a person in that role.
What that means is that the change management role will inevitably be filled by you, the business owner and leader in your business. The benefit of being a small to medium business is that you won’t have a large number of employees and it’s fairly simple to arrange a staff meeting with everyone attending.
There are three keys to implementing change in any business.
– ONE –
At the very beginning of a potential change process, it is imperative to include the staff in the discussions. But before you start the discussion process it is worthwhile for you as the owner to have done some research into the possibilities and alternatives to identify what is available and how much it may cost you.
Then, armed with this information, start the conversation with your team. Tell them about your vision for the business, show your excitement and enthusiasm for the future and encourage them to have their say. Then talk about some of the changes you are considering and tell them that you value their input and opinions and would love for them to give you some feedback on what you’re planning.
Potentially this may lead to other ideas that you haven’t thought about or it may lead you to make a decision on the priority of which changes to make first. You will get a good feel for how each member of your team is feeling during these discussions and you will inevitably have one or two who will say that this or that can’t be done, or that it will take a lot of time and they’re too busy to learn something new, or a myriad of other possible negative type responses.
You will also have those who are excited about the prospect of doing things differently and they will be the ones who will offer great input on improvements they would like to see. These people are gold in your business, particularly if these are the team members who are talking to your clients or customers. They are at the coal face of your business and know what changes are needed better than you.
– TWO –
Having identified who are the team members who will willingly embrace change, use these people to help to drive the changes. Make each one of them responsible for some part of the change process and they will help to make it happen more quickly for you.
For the team members who are negative about the changes, there are a few options. One is to have a one-on-one conversation with each one of them noting that you heard their concerns about the changes.
Find out if you can what their specific concerns are and be aware that they may not be obvious nor something that they will tell you. Underlying issues can be that they will not be good enough, that they are worried they’ll lose their job, that they feel that they are too old to learn new procedures and so on. Your job is to make them feel understood, ensure that they feel valued as part of the team (assuming you are happy with them), and that you will make sure that there is sufficient training for them and that it will take time and you acknowledge that this is the case.
Of course, if you have a team member who is going to buck the changes no matter what, you need to decide whether you want them to continue working for your business. I’ve often seen situations where one person has effectively held back the business from changing and growing because they refuse to embrace changes and as a result either they do things the old way or the owner doesn’t implement changes at all for fear of upsetting that employee.
– THREE –
Start the process of change, keeping the team updated on the progress on a regular basis. You need to lead by example, as always, and make sure that you are trained on the new system to the extent that you need to know how it works so that you can fulfil your role as the leader and owner of the business.
Hold regular meetings to monitor progress and ask for ongoing feedback on what is working and what isn’t working. Find out whether the speed of change is felt to be too fast, ok or too slow and adjust accordingly.