Over the past few years, change in the workplace has become a constant, requiring organisations to navigate a multitude of internal and external factors that require them to adapt, transform, and stay competitive. However, it has also never been clearer just how badly many companies manage planned or intentional change, with little consideration for the individuals who will have to make the change happen or be affected by such change.
Unfortunately, if change is not proactively and intentionally managed, it can be very disruptive and unsettling, which poses a risk to any business, says Peter Kriel, leadership expert and General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading private higher education provider.
“Change is an inevitable part of life. Whether it be personal, professional, or societal, change constantly surrounds us, shaping our experiences and influencing the world we live in. The fact is that in the face of change, individuals often exhibit diverse reactions to change. Some seem to effortlessly adapt, even thrive, in the face of uncertainty and transformation and possess a remarkable ability to seize opportunities, navigate challenges, and embrace new possibilities with enthusiasm,” says Kriel.
“On the other hand, there are those who are resistant to change, finding themselves uncomfortable and overwhelmed by its unpredictability and who may cling to the familiar and resist any disruption to their routines. By understanding these contrasting mindsets, businesses can gain valuable insights into how individuals navigate change and cultivate the resilience necessary to adapt and flourish in an ever-evolving world.”
This is where a well-defined change management process plays a crucial role. By understanding the key components and recognising its importance, businesses can effectively navigate change, minimise resistance, and maximise the chances of successful outcomes.
“Part of any change management programme should be the recognition and understanding that people in our teams react differently to change,” says Kriel.
“It greatly benefits a business to firstly understand the characteristics of those who thrive on change, but then also the impact of ignoring those who are likely to resist change. Drawing on this knowledge can help navigate the way through the change process to reach the required outcome.”
In addition to identifying change champions and roping them in during the process, businesses managing change have some guidelines to ease the process:
- Clear and transparent objectives and vision
A change management process begins with clearly defined objectives and a compelling vision. It is essential to articulate why the change, no matter how big or small, is necessary, what it aims to achieve, and how it aligns with the overall strategic goals of the organisation. This clarity provides a sense of direction and purpose, ensuring that all stakeholders understand and embrace the intended changes.
- Stakeholder engagement and communication
Engaging and involving stakeholders at every stage of the change process is paramount. Stakeholders can include employees, leaders, customers, suppliers, and any individuals or groups affected by the change. Effective communication plays a vital role in managing expectations, addressing concerns, and garnering support. Transparent and timely communication builds trust and minimises resistance, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the change.
- Doing a change impact assessment
A thorough assessment of the potential impact of the proposed change is crucial. This involves identifying the areas, processes, and individuals that will be affected. By understanding the scope and magnitude of the change, organisations can develop strategies to mitigate risks, allocate resources appropriately, and minimise disruptions to ongoing operations. Assessing the impact helps in planning and implementing change in a structured manner.
- Change planning and execution
A well-structured plan is essential for successfully implementing change. It should outline the specific steps, timelines, and responsible parties involved in executing the change. This includes identifying potential barriers or challenges and developing strategies to address them. A systematic approach ensures that the change process is well-managed, minimising the chances of unexpected complications or resistance.
- Training and Development
Preparing employees and stakeholders for change through training and development initiatives is crucial. Providing the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources equips individuals to adapt and thrive in the unfamiliar environment. Training also alleviates anxieties, builds confidence, and helps individuals embrace the change with a positive mindset.
- Continuous Evaluation and Feedback
Change management is an iterative process that requires continuous evaluation and feedback. Monitoring the progress, identifying gaps, and making necessary adjustments are vital to ensure the change aligns with the desired outcomes. Regular feedback loops enable organisations to address emerging issues promptly, make informed decisions, and maintain momentum throughout the change process.
“Implementing a robust change management process brings several benefits to a business by minimising resistance, maximising adoption and mitigating risk,” says Kriel.
“A systematic approach increases the likelihood of successful adoption and integration of the change. It promotes understanding, alignment, and buy-in among stakeholders, leading to a smoother transition and quicker realisation of benefits. Additionally, risks such as disruptions to operations, employee disengagement, or decreased customer satisfaction are addressed. And finally, organisations that embrace change management build resilience to future disruptions. They develop a culture that values learning, agility, and adaptation, enabling them to navigate future changes with greater ease.”