The one thing you can rely on in life to stay the same is that things will keep changing. Every industry, without exception, is experiencing some form of change, with new challengers rising and incumbents falling - or looking for ways to reinvent themselves to stay competitive. Even the disruptors need to think about how they can disrupt themselves to keep up.
While transforming a business might make sense strategically, putting the change into practice and ensuring it gets adopted by everyone across the organisation can be a different challenge altogether. Even the most well-crafted strategy gets messy when it comes into contact with the day-to-day realities of the business. Here are seven guidelines based on practical experience for making a change successful when you are making a business transformation:
- Think laterally: Before launching a change strategy, consider all the options and implications available in the context of the objective you want to achieve. The most obvious course may not be the best for the organisation or people who work there. For example, merging two teams might seem like the obvious solution to a performance problem, but failure to anticipate the human response, before, during and after the change could make the original issue worse.
- Create a vision: Create a clear, simple everyone can understand and make relevant to their roles and aspirations. Especially in situations where the transformation will involve creating a new team or team structure, make the vision action-oriented: it should articulate what the new organisation will achieve beyond its capabilities today and what this will mean for the people who work there.
- Understand the stakeholders: Consider the potential stakeholders as broadly as possible: those directly and indirectly involved and how their role and influence may evolve. Understand their cultures, behaviours, political motivations in the organisation, objectives, then anticipate how they are likely to respond to the change.
- Use the environment: Analyse the environment in which the change is taking place and how you can use it to your best advantage. For example, does the division or organisation have a strong reputation and heritage to draw on? Is there an established and long-standing base of staff who feel an investment in the organisation and who could be powerful change drivers if they were brought on side?
- Build rapport: Personal relationships count. Create opportunities early to assess the chemistry between the teams involved, then create professional and social scenarios to nurture them throughout the transformation.
- Harness 'back channels': Don't rely solely on leadership-driven communication to guide the change. Engage with informal communication networks in the organisation and provide incentives for people at the grassroots to explore the situation. Engage middle managers to facilitate feedback and stimulate ideas and be seen to respond to them. This will create a more positive and receptive climate for change
- Establish a "what next?" test: At each stage of the change, reflect on what has happened so far, so you can determine the best next step and anticipate how people will respond. This will embed a culture of forward-planning in the transformation programme, so that once the formal change is complete, the foundations are in place for a long-term plan to truly establish the changed culture and practice.