When describing the general stages of change, I like to categorize the steps into these four points as a overview of what to do. These points are easy to understand but complex to implement. There are always many moving parts and people involved, which requires a lot of preparation and planning and the willingness to allow emerging ideas. Here is an brief overview of my process to successful change. Also note that the change process is more complex than these simple steps of 1, 2, 3, 4.
This stage is best done looking into the business with borrowed eyes, or hiring someone to do this for you. You need to look at all the people within the company, their roles and responsibilities, as well as the leadership structure, culture, values, mission, and vision of the company. You want to understand what the changes will mean for the company. You want to clarify the opportunities that are expected with this change and how it will affect the company, the employees, the culture you want, and the community your company belongs to.
From the observations you will evaluate the opportunities identified and the resources available to support the expected changes. Realistic numbers for time, money, HR, etc. are required to ensure you know you have what is needed during the change. This also includes the strength of the leadership within the company, to hold the space for all involved, to do their best work during the change and to watch for other change that intersects or disrupts your business.
Then brainstorm which opportunities will be the focus, the goals expected and the challenges this change will bring, so you can be ready to manage or mitigate the issue that will come along with those challenges.
Start by inviting a ‘change team’ to help you with the details of formulating and implementing the change. The change team should be interested in being a part of the this team, excited for the opportunities and ideally are influences in the company, so others are more likely to be onboard with the change and not working against the effort.
The job of the ‘change team’ is to formulate a plan that defines the timelines, and other resources required, to develop a schedule defining when what will be required over the change. This plan needs to be accepted by all, owned by all, and flexible enough to ensure that the plan can adapt to issues, roadblocks, new opportunities, and other change that interferes with the defined schedules or can derail the project all together. This stage requires a large amount of strategic planning time and will cover items, as seen in this list below.
Note – this also requires a lot of culture building to ensure your entire company is supporting this effort, and not working against it.
10 items needed to formulate your change
- Articulate, in writing, the objectives and goals for the change.
- Determine milestones that must be met in order to reach the goals.
- Communicate the change in a way as to inspire the team to be excited for, and want to take part in, making the change successful.
- Encourage feedback and open dialogue.
- Allow the team members to generate ideas around the change and provide a process to accept and evaluate the ideas (include scheduled meetings as well as open invitations for new ideas or identified challenges).
- Ask the team members to identify their own actions, responsibilities, and milestones that will support the change.
- Create a time schedule for milestones that include identifying resources required for each, overlapping, concurrent, and sequential timeline for all other milestones.
- Identify how this work will affect your current work resources like: people, income, expenses, product quality, delivery, customer service, etc.
- Define a process to evaluate the implementation, an accountability schedule, a process allow for adjustments, and a way to celebrate all the wins throughout the process (not just the final goal completion).
- Identify who will be in charge of what within this process. Note that training and additional resources (like hiring contractors) may be required to ensure that the work can be achieved in the time expected.
Why so much Formulation?
Everyone on the team must know about the change-objectives and be aligned with it. This includes your employees, managers, advisors, investors and shareholders. You do not want people within your company working against your change. People do this when they feel like they are losing out on something, so, ensuring people understand how these changes will benefit each of them in the future will be important. Having a team that, at the very least, understands how the change will affect the company in a positive way, will create people that will help you look for things that can help that be successful. Team members that understand the risks and rewards are more likely to also understand how to overcome the negative results of unmitigated risk. Team members that feel they are contributing and have autonomy to bring ideas and insights to the work helps develop transformational leaders in your company. Transformational leaders help find answers to challenges, creates more innovation, and results in a company that this more flexible to accelerated change and more competitive.
This is a big section because it takes a lot of “people work” to create success. By “people work” I mean, ensuring people feel acknowledged and have permissions to generating new ideas, sometimes failing, learning and adapting to get to the answers. This takes great leadership and management skills that also includes empathy and compassion. If you look back at the list of 10 items needed to formulate your change, you will note that every step requires significant “people work”.
Finally, the implementation. This step is the ‘doing’ step.
With adaptive change(1), there is an opportunity to discover ideas; Ideas that may benefit the final goal or may be an obstacle. Sometimes the solutions to these finding require an adjustment to the plan. This can be tricky when there are changes to the change, which can take you off course quickly.
Read – Set – Go
Monitor the first steps to ensure the change is on-track and remains aligned with the defined objectives. Then continue to observe the change, evaluate the path, adjust for setbacks or new obstacles, and then celebrate the wins along the way.
Observe – Check in and observe how your people feel about the change process. Are they still excited and engaged. Are they worried and not supportive. Successful implementation requires a continued supportive engagement with the expected outcomes of the change. If, during the implementation, the disgruntled team members may determine that there is something missing or wrong about the change and believes adjustment to the plan is needed – They may work to make these adjustments on their own and be at odds with your overall expected outcomes.
Evaluate – Create a routine for measurement and evaluations of the process and a way to get feedback. This is not simply knowing deadlines are being met. The change will have an effect on the entire organization, so evaluating many areas of the organization will be important, including: spending, suppliers, physical workspace and tools, communications, location, operational resources, etc.
Formulate – Continue to formulate how the change fits into the new corporate process & plans. Revisit and review your “10 items needed to formulate your change”. When new ideas are generated, think about which new ideas should be addressed now (work formulating them into the current change) and which should be postponed for the next change project.
Train – Not everyone on your team will have the ability to instinctively know what they are to do within this adaptive change model. People that feel they don’t know what is happening will feel some resistance to the change. You want people to see the change as a way forward, something better than just staying still, so you need to ensure you have trained everyone to understand what their role in your change will be, even if it is being comfortable to come to the CEO and share a concern.
Stick to your plan, be open to ideas, and prepared to make adjustments as you go. Be adaptive in your thinking and focused on your goals so you can get to the finish line. The finish line of any project is not the end of change. New ideas, more competition, environmental, economic, and other change factors are abundant and increasing. They hold the opportunities you need to run a successful business.
Remember: Change is not a ‘one and done’ it is a ‘now and next’.
1 Adaptive Change – The companies that are open to this type of change are more responsive to change. Instead of setting a plan and implementing it in a rigid, mechanistic manner, they have more of an organic view of change and recognize that plans should not be written in stone. Adaptive change responds to emerging situations and can add to a company’s viability for the future. It increases innovative tendencies, flexibility and responsiveness to ongoing change, resulting in a more competitive and agile culture.