Adapting is surviving: Managing change in your business

Guest Column: Emmanuel Zvada

EVERYBODY knows that modern business is fast-paced and in that case, change is necessary to survive. For organisations to evolve, they need to make changes and failure to embrace change will be a true reflection of lesser chances of survival in the future. Change is often needed to help your business processes flow easier, improve productivity and foster a more competitive and profitable organisation. Organisations that do not adapt could be in for a lot of trouble.

Change is necessitated by both external and internal pressures, thus it is inevitable, that we cannot run away from it. It is inevitable in the sense that environmental changes threaten organisational survival. As a result, if an organisation loses sight of its environment, it may find itself out of business or overtaken by competitors. Good change management processes start with a realistic analysis of your business systems, processes, structures, strategies and leadership approaches to determine the actual need for change. Determining why, what and how you need to change and involve your people in each step will also help you manage a smooth change process, strengthen your business and retain your key staff and business skills.

Whether the change is a small one, like the implementation of a new system, or change in the pricing of products or services or a restructuring, the way that change is managed makes all the difference to its success or failure. People rarely welcome change. As human beings, we tend to be averse to change, especially in a world which is increasingly changing at a disturbing rate. Employees and even other stakeholders can be sceptical and resistant to anything that threatens the status quo of their working lives. With this in mind, introducing change and transformation has to be done carefully, sensitively and collaboratively.

Change is never easy for anyone, though. People find themselves fraught to resist change due to a variety of reasons, be it fear, a lack of willingness to adapt, or stress of added pressure and workload. Therefore, when faced with the task of implementing a new system into the company, managers and employees experience a range of hurdles and confusions before successfully adapting to it. To help make this process easier, if you are new to managing change, we are going to provide you with some tips to successfully implement change at your workplace. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind:

Carefully choose what changes to prioritise

Organisational change is the systematic attempt to restructure an organisation in a way that will help it adapt to change in the external environment or to achieve new goals. It occurs when structural adjustments are made to counteract changes in either socio-economic or political environment, among others. The change process can be thought of as a process which stops the current process, makes the necessary changes to the current process and then run the new process. There are so many things that could be improved despite limited time and resources.
As an organisation, you must set priorities or else you would accomplish little and expend too much effort. Successful prioritisation requires the execution of a carefully designed plan.

Involve stakeholders in the change process

Stakeholders will adopt change initiatives more easily if you engage them in that change. Stakeholders are people who have some form of interest in the change. These could be internal employees, customers and suppliers. Stakeholders are the groups and individuals who will be influential in the success of your change plans. It is often the skill with which you communicate, consult and involve these people which will determine the success of your change initiative. Engaged stakeholders stay involved in the process and normally they will not resist change as they are also involved in the process.

Understand why people fear change

In making changes, try to foresee how this would affect the people involved. Knowing the precise issues that concern each person would be an invaluable guide to making people more welcome of the change. The less your team members know about the change and its impact on them, the more fearful they will become. Leading change also requires not springing surprises on the organisation and employees. For any significant organisational change effort to be effective, you will need a thoughtful strategy and a thoughtful implementation approach to address these barriers before even implementing the change.

Communicating change

Change can be confronting, intimidating or exciting, depending on the way it is communicated. The way you manage the process will heavily determine the impact of change on your staff. Communicating the reasons and benefits, describing the process and providing regular updates on the change process will help you cultivate a team that thrives on change.
Present the big picture by outlining the organisation’s goals and illustrating how the change will help improve them. After that break down the benefits as they apply directly to the employees.

It is also important to anticipate your employees’ reactions to the planned changes, especially in situations wherein there would be a reduction in privileges. Here, it is only reasonable to expect antagonism. Precautions should be instituted so that the change process is sustained.

Engaging employees through change

Whenever an organisation imposes new things on people, there will be difficulties so the panacea to that is to prepare workers through participation, involvement, early and full communication. The more your staff understand and accept the need for business change, the more positively they will respond to the change process. Fostering their understanding and involvement will help them work positively and purposefully on change tasks. Seek their input in decisions where you can factor in their views.

Build a culture of continuous improvement

Most importantly, great managers recognise that change does not just impact on the business. It impacts on the individuals within the business; creating an emotional upheaval that requires tailored support is needed continuously. Always be on the look for ways to improve your business processes and performance, and invite your staff to share their ideas and observations for improvement. Your steps will help your staff recognise change as a positive part of driving continuous improvement and build their morale and investment.

Give it time

One last thing that should be leant by organisations is the ability to be patient during the process of change. The results might not immediately come and, therefore, the need to be patient. Many organisations fail on the aspect of patience because they very time they implement change they will be seeking for results. Do not expect your employees or customers to adjust to the change right away. Make it clear that there is a learning curve, and that you are open to questions, concerns, and suggestions. Remember that being flexible and collaborative will help you perfect the change even if you take a slightly different route to your goal.

Adapt to rapid change better than competitors and you can make great strides; ignore rapidly changing circumstances and expect to go the way of the dinosaur. Adapting may be difficult, but it is not impossible to ignore it.

Today, the ability to apprehend change and adapt to it, accept it and mould it remains the only sure and short way to achieve success.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant/international recruitment expert and author. He writes in his personal capacity.

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