Former US president John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. In business, we must continually change. The Dow Jones was launched in 1896. Of all the companies on the original Dow, only one still exists. It is GE and, by their own admission, GE is a completely different company to what it was all those years ago and, if it remains successful, it will be a completely different company in another hundred years.
Which brings me back to our businesses.
In business, evolution is not an option. If we stand still in our businesses we go backwards. The day that we think we have our business model perfected is not the day to stop changing. The issue comes about when we try to make changes. With the evidence in existence related to the necessity of change in business, you would think every business would constantly be revising their model. But that is not the case.
Humans are pretty basic animals. We only need four things to survive – oxygen, water, food and sex. Typically, we only need an additional item to make us happy. We need to feel safe. Obviously, safe is a subjective component but the feeling of safety is a critical component when you look at change in a business. When management announces major changes in a business, the first thought that pops into the heads of all employees is in relation to the future existence of their job. “Will I still have a job?”, “Will my job change?”, “Will I have to learn new skills?” All of these questions are running through the minds of employees. They feel much safer when they can turn up to work each day and keep doing what they are currently doing.
If managed correctly, change can be exciting for employees. The first mistake a management team usually makes is a lack of communication. It’s critical to have a comprehensive communications strategy from the beginning.
Better still, don’t have a beginning of the change process. Change should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organisation.
If we accept change is inevitable, there are a few steps I believe should be followed to continue to drive change throughout your business. The first is that you should have a change management process that involves every single employee in an organisation. All employees should have the chance at least quarterly to have this input. In a small organisation, that might mean a quarterly team meeting that involves all employees. In a larger organisation it would involve teams or department meetings that feed up into a management meeting. As an ongoing part of the process, any decisions reached or actions to be taken need to be filtered back down to employees so they feel involved in the process. You also need to be very clear in relation to any specific goals and any objectives as a result of those planned changes.
Last, I encourage businesses to employ a consultant once a quarter to look at their business. I call this person the internal external- consultant. Take your newest staff member in the organisation and take them away from their normal duties for a day. For that day, their job is to look at the organisation with fresh eyes and question processes and strategies and look at the business critically.
You will be amazed at what they see. Sometimes employees wear blinkers in their jobs and miss the most obvious areas for improvement. This will remove the blinkers. I guarantee one thing – once your employees realise that change in a business is dramatically less disruptive than their employer closing their doors, they may view change in a slightly better light.
Tell me how you handle change at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Issue: 315 | May 2013
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