All businesses go through changes during their existence. Managing these changes effectively has a major impact on the success or failure of an organization. About 70 percent of change efforts fail in business, so nailing this is vital to your company.
What is “change management?”
Simply put, “change management” is the ability to execute needed changes in a way that your team actually implements the change.
This article will discuss how to effectively lead through a change in your business. I’ve taken the framework published by John Kotter in the Harvard Business Review and adapted it for the green industry.
Step 1: Identify the problem
Do not make change for change’s sake. Also, avoid changes for personal preferences (“I want it done my way!”). Instead, you must be solving a real problem facing your business. When roughly 70 percent of the people whose day-to-day workflow will be impacted by this change agree there’s a problem that must be solved, you’ve got the momentum you need to make change.
Step 2: Assemble a “change team”
For changes to your business to “stick,” the solution must have input (if not outright authority) from those who deal with the problem every day. This means you must assemble a team of people in your company to tackle the problem.
This team should be composed of a mix of people from all levels: senior leaders give it authority, and midlevel managers and front-line workers ensure changes are practical. Pick midlevel managers and front-line workers who exert influence with others in the company. This team should be empowered to create a solution that’s viable and then execute on that solution companywide.
Step 3: Create the vision
Once you have a solution, you need to begin crafting the communication around this change. This involves creating a clear, concise “vision statement.”
This statement should have four parts:
1. It identifies the problem.
2. It describes why it is a problem.
3. It outlines the solution.
4. It describes what the future looks like after the solution is implemented.
Share it with discreet employees and those outside the organization whom you trust to ensure you’ve got clarity on all four points. Once a majority of those you’ve shared it with agree it’s clear, you can roll it out.
Note for owners and the C-suite: You’ll be tempted to take over the “solution” and “vision statement” portions. Don’t. You’ll make things worse than if you had acted unilaterally to implement a change.
Step 4: Communicate the vision
Communicate this ad nauseum. Memorize it yourself and have other senior leaders memorize it. Ask midlevel managers to do the same. Talk about it in company meetings, division meetings, one-on-one meetings and tailgate huddles. When you’re repeating it in your sleep, you’re probably communicating it enough.
Step 5: Empower others to act
You created the change team with senior leaders and other influential people so that it would “stick” when you rolled out the change. Now, you need to let them implement the change.
If it’s a new process that’s needed, let them create it. If it’s new software, let them select the best option within the budget. If it’s equipment, let them do the research and select the best gear.
Hold everyone across the company accountable for following the change, even the high-performers who are resistant. This sends the message that you’re serious about it and everyone has to row in the same direction.
Step 6: Engineer and celebrate short-term wins
Create milestones along the path to the new change that are achievable and practical. Make sure they are milestones you can reasonably hit within the first few weeks, and then celebrate these.
Continue to lay out this road map of “wins” deliberately and honestly celebrate the wins when milestones are achieved. This builds excitement and energy for the “change” and ensures the maximum number of people participate.
Step 7: Streamline improvements
The goal here is to look for the maximum efficiency from the change without burning out the team. If it’s a process change, see if you can streamline a few steps. If it’s a new software, see if there are features that will further speed up the workflow. If it’s new equipment, make sure you’re aware of all the manufacturer’s specs so you can use it everywhere it’ll save man-hours.
Don’t tweak the “change” to death. You’ll wear out your team. You’re looking for efficiencies you can implement while people are still in a “change” mindset. You’re not trying to get blood from a stone.
Step 8: The “change” becomes the “norm”
This is about enshrining the “change” in the day to day. Ensure processes are clearly documented, distributed and discussed. Update your onboarding process to reflect the “new” norm. Hold everyone accountable for following the updated standard operating procedures because this is simply “how we do business.”
Failure to follow through at this stage will result in a failed change initiative.
In an upcoming article, I’ll provide an example of what this can look like in a business and how to implement these steps when there’s a need for real change.