8 Change Management Best Practices to Ensure Sustainability
Change management – how do you define it and why is it such a popular term these days? The BNET Business Directory calls change management “the coordination of a structured period of transition from situation A to situation B in order to achieve lasting change within an organization.” That’s a mouthful. Accurate? Technically, yes. But we think there’s more to it than that. Successful change management is an art form.
At USC Consulting Group, we’ve been effecting change in organizations for more than 50 years, and if we’ve learned one thing, it’s the importance of managing that change correctly. It really is the key to the whole thing. That’s because you can go into a company and effect all the change you want — make the line more efficient, increase throughput, get the operation lean and mean, whatever else is needed — but none of it will stick or do the good you envision it will do without managing the change correctly. The bad news: Change management is not intuitive or easy. The good news: We’ve developed several change management best practices along the way.
Change management best practices
Here’s some of the secret sauce we put into our change management recipe for success.
Remember, it’s about human behavior
When we go into a company, our goal is to identify gaps in performance and rectify whatever is impeding the operation. But when it comes right down to it, everything revolves around behaviors. Whatever the change you’re making, it’s going to involve people behaving and working in a different way. So at its core, effective change management requires helping people transform their behavior. And as we all know, people don’t necessarily love that, especially if they’ve been getting the job done one way for the duration. Research shows 62% of people don’t like leaving their comfort zone. As Operations Manager Chris Smith says, “It takes time and it takes a lot of intent.”
Generations are different
Effecting change within a company isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Boomers have one set of expectations. Millennials look at things differently. And Gen Z has its own lens. “You have to take into account who you’re coaching and what they’re willing to put up with,” Smith advises.
Reassure people their jobs aren’t going away
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about consultants — that we’re going to swoop in, slash and burn, and paper the shop floor with pink slips. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We never go into a company intending to cut jobs. Just the opposite. We believe people are a company’s biggest and most important asset. Making the operation more efficient might mean people’s jobs change, but it’s not our tactic to boost the bottom line by cutting staff. Still, people seem to have a universal suspicion that change is going to usher them right out the door. Let them know their jobs are safe and you’ll get less resistance to whatever change you’re proposing.
Involve people at all levels
We can’t overstate how important this is to the process of change. It’s crucial to involve people at all levels of the organization, from the C suite right down to the people getting the job done on the line. Not only will you get a wealth of ideas by listening to all of them, the buy-in that comes from getting people involved at the outset is crucial. That way, the change that you’re implementing won’t be happening to them. They will be a part of it. With that kind of mindset, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Of the employees who are part of the process, ask some of the more enthusiastic and excited among them to spread the word about what you’re doing and why it will be a positive step. Consider leveraging your informal leaders to weigh in. Making it their idea goes a long way toward acceptance among the rest of your working group.
Be clear on the “Why”
While it’s crucial to involve people at all levels, you’re not going to be able to involve everyone. For those who are not a part of the process, it’s important they understand why the change is happening. It could be that the company’s throughput is lagging. Or profits are down. Or supply chain disruption is grinding things to a halt. Whatever it is, identifying the problem is a big step toward getting people on board with the solution.
Communicate early and often
“Transparency” is a big buzzword these days. But all it really means is telling people what’s going on. Don’t work in a vacuum or people will wonder what you’re doing, why, and if their jobs are on the line – if you don’t provide information your employees will likely make up their own. Let people know what’s happening, what you’re finding and what they might expect.
Stay the course
This is one of the biggest differentiators between USC and the other guys. We don’t simply hand upper management a file of recommendations for change, pat them on the back and walk out the door. We stay on site to help implement the changes we’ve recommended, iron out any glitches along the way and make sure everything’s running smoothly. We’re a true partner for our clients.
Utilize these change management best practices to ensure the process improvements you make last. Get in touch today if you’d like to talk about how USC can help your company become more efficient and effective. We’ll help you manage that change, guaranteed.