Traditional change management is on its way out. And for very good reasons. It is just too slow to keep up. Constant change that defies start and end dates, rapid advances in technology such as AI and process automation, and increasing workforce flexibility mean that businesses have to adapt their approach to managing change. Or risk losing out on the benefits the change was intended to create.
Not surprisingly, human factors such as emotions, beliefs, values, sense of self and sense of belonging – messy things business often prefers not to have to deal with – are often the things that make or break successful change. Using these five tips could help you manage those messy factors more effectively.
1. Engage people in the change
Go beyond traditional ‘stakeholder engagement’ to actively inviting people to shape the change you’re trying to create. The more people feel heard and involved, the more supportive they are likely to be. And if in the process of involving people, you also get some great ideas for what to change and how to change it, you can only be more effective. Finally, seeing some of their ideas in action tells people their input is valuable and helps them feel as if they made the change happen instead of being its victim.
2. Know when change requires high-touch interaction
And don’t skimp on it. Human interaction is necessary for change management. Time-consuming as it may be, it can make or break your initiative. But that said, don’t miss the opportunities to leverage technology for effective low-touch engagements, either. Succeeding is also about moving quickly. So plan your engagements carefully, to create an experience rather than simply effecting a major change, and make sure you have an appropriate mix of high- and low-touch contact points well designed and beautifully executed.
3. Get senior sponsorship for modules of the change
We know that leadership is an important part of the change management plan, and having an executive sponsor is a key part of the traditional change model. But executives are busy, and sponsorship needs to be more visible than just making big decisions and providing funding. Your leadership’s visible involvement in the change and their united front regarding the desired outcomes will help people to get behind your efforts. To help senior people get actively involved, break the change initiative into modules and ask each leader to own the element most suited to their skill set. This way, you can leverage their experience and expertise in bite-size pieces when you need to without overwhelming them with yet more work.
4. Make sure talk turns into action
All this engagement will fall flat if it doesn’t result in action. Make sure your change strategy is supported by a solid implementation plan. And that people are accountable for successful implementation at various levels in the business. The more you can make people part of the change – not just the ideas but the action needed to make it real – the more effective the change will be. Regular, quality communication about progress, and celebrating milestones visibly in the business, will also help to ensure people can see and hear the change. Not just talk about it.
5. Create a shift in your C-Suite
There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of understanding technology and interpreting data for leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution. But I’d like to propose that there is another, vital shift that needs to happen within our C-Suites if we as businesses are to ride the waves of change successfully. It’s a fundamentally human shift, rather than an analytical one. Our C-Suites need to shift from being functional heads that look after their own business silos, to thinking of themselves as the team that is the custodian of culture and behaviour within their organisation as a whole.
Yes, the importance of socially conscious, disruptive, data-driven decisives who champion talent in their teams cannot be underestimated. But “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The C-Suite must take it upon themselves to guide culture and drive the behaviours that will lead to successful business change and strategic execution.
Some of these tips may be easier to execute than others. But I believe they are some of the best ways to navigate change and deliver a purposeful and profitable business.