Imposed v chosen change: strategically manage change in your business

Sergey Nazarov/iStock
Change at work
Philip Cox-Hynd
Harley Young
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Human beings are pretty amazing, and one of our many impressive elements is how adaptable we are. In our everyday lives we may find solace in routine or familiar surroundings, and may feel all at sea if our routine is interrupted, but it is evident that it is our ability to undergo significant changes that makes our lifestyles easier to lead.

Take the spectrum of cultures all over the world, and see how we exist: on a diverse range of diets, surviving all sorts of adverse environments, able to do many remarkable things with our bodies and minds, like speak several languages or endure long journeys on foot.

Humans all around the world are living proof of our ability to accommodate almost anything that we need to. But the success of this accommodation is often decided by how change comes about.

In spite of our undoubtable ability to live our lives around the conditions and resources we have, it is in our human nature to resist making changes that we haven’t decided on for ourselves. For this reason, initiating change as a business manager can be difficult to handle, especially if the people you are managing don’t share your opinion on the need for action.

Such efforts usually cause ructions in the group, due to a lack of trust, no shared vision, and little drive to make anything happen - which ultimately is time, money and effort down the drain.

So how can you bring about change in business without disagreement?

It is a common error for businesses to hit the ground running with the thought of ‘transformation’, a word that is often too daunting to be effective: it has connotations of a complete shift from one extreme to another.

Change of this severity is both impractical and upsetting in business and is likely to be given the cold shoulder by your team, so deflating all of your efforts.

For this reason, a good place to start is by casting off the idea of ‘transformation’ and thinking more in terms of ‘change’. It is a far gentler way of introducing the notion of taking things in a new direction, and by shedding the harsh connotations of the word ‘transformation’ you set yourself up for a far more steady journey.

Change Management (CM) is becoming more central to business success, as more people recognise the benefits it brings.

CM involves becoming a leader who guides the company in a new direction, leading by example in an enthusiastic and inclusive way.

It should also mean that all staff can make contributions to the company’s new direction and feel comfortable in making suggestions. By positioning the entire team as empowered and when individuals’ voices are heard, the change being implemented takes on a far less imposing form and is far more likely to succeed.

It is a common error for businesses to hit the ground running with the thought of ‘transformation’, a word that is often too daunting to be effective.

When businesses want to make changes, the phrase ‘change or die’ is sometimes resorted to, but it is done so entirely at the speaker’s own risk.

It is another of those tricks that make others instantly defensive and likely to resist further efforts (you remember being told not to do things during your teenage years, and did you listen?).

Rather than introducing change as a do-or-die inevitability, come together to discuss as a group the issues the company is facing. By inviting the ideas and involvement of others, the changes you put in place will feel far less enforced, and are more likely to succeed.

Every business is likely to come to a point at which making changes is for the best.

Each member of the company will feel the results of whatever you put in place, so make sure to be a mindful leader and consider everybody’s interests when deciding what to do next. Open the floor and actively invite the suggestions of others.

This way, your team will feel assured that they are being taken care of by their employer and that their opinions carry weight.

By positioning the entire team as empowered and when individuals’ voices are heard, the change being implemented takes on a far less imposing form.

As a final way of helping yourself along in making change a success, it is worth trying to find a way of quantifying the success or failure of the changes you put in place.

By being able to recognise when something has worked and when it hasn’t, you empower yourself to be better equipped for future management decisions. It also allows your team to bask in the feeling of success, when you see a noticeable improvement, and know that they were instrumental in making that happen.

Giving real thought to the way you implement changes in your company and becoming a more mindful leader is a very positive move to make, and brings your company closer to bigger and better things.

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