This article by Mark and John originally appeared on TrainingMag.com.
Incredible advances in technology, communication, information processing, and globalization are occurring at a ferocious pace. As a result, many business models are requiring change, while others quickly are becoming obsolete. A growing body of research indicates that a doggedly future-focused, change-oriented mentality that integrates and embraces ongoing plans for change produces better decision-making, drives growth, and facilitates success.
How are you dealing with change? Procrastinating is not an option. To survive today, you must be prepared for rapid change. A change plan is developed to implement projects that have been specified for change. It’s important for all companies to have a change plan, but it plays an even more significant role in small companies, because the very nature of being small lends itself to greater potential growth and rapid change.
Change requires courage, a certain degree of risk, some discomfort, and often a lot of hard work, but today, an ongoing change plan should be the norm rather than the exception.
The development of a change plan is an integral part of all successful people’s playbook. Prepare yourself for ongoing change by developing and executing a change plan that includes the following:
- Identify projects for change
- Develop an effective communication plan
- Eliminate implementation barriers
- Develop the change plan
Identify Projects for Change
There is no right or wrong answer as to exactly where to begin, but after doing a company-wide assessment, you should be able to prioritize what needs immediate attention, improvement, or change. Talk with as many people as appropriate and possible before adopting and communicating any change plan. Explain the proposed area of change and simultaneously get an understanding of your organization’s appetite and aptitude for change, including how people might react to the change and what will have to be done for successful adoption and execution. Get feedback from everyone you deem necessary.
Determine what is working and what isn’t, as well as improvements and changes that could be made by asking well-crafted questions. Importantly, while you’re checking in with your team, also get their perspectives on the company, the marketplace, the competition, and your customers.
Develop an Effective Communication Plan
To manage sustainable change, you must communicate a clear vision of the project. Begin by developing an effective communication strategy for company-wide adoption, which is the cornerstone for the support, execution, and success of the plan.
You will have already informally introduced the proposed project and received feedback, so now you can finalize and deliver your formal communication plan. Set an upbeat, energized tone from the get-go. Be open and freely share all information about the pending change.
Follow up with your people with these essential steps:
- Explain the goals and objectives of the change
- Explain why the change is necessary
- Discuss what the change may look like and how it may affect departments and individual employees
- Speak in terms of how the company and everyone will benefit from the change
- Establish roles and responsibilities for how the change will be achieved; that is, who is going to do what, when, why, and how
- Discuss the project timeframe and timelines
- Establish the desired results
- Keep providing progress updates
- Encourage feedback from all employees to continuously improve the plan
Whenever possible, have all the appropriate people involved in any change discussion, and do it in a timely fashion to eliminate information vacuums, rumors, and resentment. Make them part of the entire process.
Eliminate Implementation Barriers
Everyone perceives change in different ways. Keep in mind that change can be disruptive and upsetting to people. There will be those who are stimulated by the change and welcome it, but you can’t expect everyone to be happy—it just isn’t going to happen. The truth is, some people will complain and some will view the change as a weapon of mass disruption and resist its implementation. Be prepared to maneuver through some minefields and to deal with a plethora of fear and concern when introducing change.
In our consulting practice, we create significant change in many companies we work with. Interestingly, the first barriers we often face are from the very executives who call us in to make the changes. They are tentative about taking on the unknown, disruption, fears, and concerns that accompany the change process. We help them prepare for the tidal wave of potential opposition with an overwhelming, compelling, and persuasive plan to ensure successful adoption.
Understand the potential obstacles from all quarters for the change plan you have in mind. To give the project and yourself the highest level of credibility possible, anticipate problems and peoples’ objections, and prepare viable answers and solutions. It’s likely you’ll encounter resistance, so be prepared for concerns from managers and employees.
Factor into your execution plan the time to deal with potential resistance. If the project is thoroughly planned and you’ve communicated it well to the organization, you’ll have less resistance. Regardless how well you plan and present the project, you still may encounter some degree of opposition, so be patient and prepared to deal with it. Make a point to give the straight facts continually; regularly resell everyone on the benefits of the change and offer wholehearted support to everyone, whether they’re for or against it.
Develop the Change Plan
In its simplest form, a change plan is an explanation of the proposed changes and the steps needed to achieve them. Length and formality depend on your particular situation. Here are the essential elements:
- Formulate a crystal-clear vision of the proposed project and its goals
- Understand exactly why you want to tackle the specific area
- Understand what you’re looking to change and its scope, and how it will affect other areas
- Isolate potential implementation obstacles
- Determine projected costs
- Determine risk factors and all potential downsides for the proposed change
- Establish evaluative criteria for success and how it will be measured
- Determine best and worst cases and pros and cons
- Design an action plan that includes who is going to do what, when, why, and how
- Set timeframes for implementation and completion
Create your change plan with a clearly expressed written document that provides the necessary road map to ensure flawless execution.
Image courtesy of Dragan-Sute, Flickr.
John Kuhn and Mark Mullins are business consultants with decades of corporate, entrepreneurial and academic experience. Their newly published book is: Street Smart Disciplines of Successful People – 7 Indispensable Disciplines for Breakout Success.