How To Successfully Drive Business Change

         Business change is the bane of many executives’ existences, whether it’s an initial failed attempt at launching a project or ongoing issues maintaining sustained motivation. With so much on the line, however – both financially and reputationally – it pays to be informed about what drives successful business change efforts.

         First, let’s start with some key definitions:

Change Management : A structured approach to launching new initiatives that involves careful planning, communication and oversight throughout all stages of process; Change management should always take into account stakeholder needs and desires as well as any existing barriers to success (such as unhealthy departmental working relationships). This strategy also aims to minimize resistance by focusing on removing roadblocks before they become problems.    

Strategic Planning: A process that begins with a business setting its long-term vision and mission for how it will achieve growth and move within the market. This is usually done in conjunction with an analysis of who the company’s competition is, as well as how their own products and services compare to those of competitors’. Once this groundwork has been laid, companies can begin formulating specific goals related to what they’ll need to do to be more successful.

         There are several key factors associated with successfully launching change management initiatives. These include:

·      Accountability – Maintaining buy-in throughout all stages of the project by ensuring all levels of staff take ownership in achieving success;

·      Vision/Mission – Ensuring that all employees understand how their role in the company contributes to overall success, and that they have a basic understanding of what that success will look like;

·      Communication – Keeping stakeholders informed throughout the entire process so as to minimize resistance and encourage feedback. Regularly scheduled updates help alleviate anxiety associated with a lack of communication.   

·      Transparency – Ensuring everyone is aware of who is responsible for each aspect of the project, which acts as a deterrent against miscommunication or rumors.

·      Incentives – Rewarding teams for meeting key milestones helps maintain motivation and focus on achieving success rather than just completing tasks. This strategy also increases accountability by encouraging people to remain focused on the end goal instead of getting distracted by day-to-day activities.

If the change management process is not executed carefully, it can actually inhibit an organization’s ability to move forward. Several common pitfalls exist which you should be aware of when planning or launching any business change initiative:

·      Unrealistic Assumptions – It is impossible to accurately predict how employees will react to any given shift in company policy. While changes may seem like no-brainers in the boardroom, they may prove quite controversial on the ground level. If assumptions aren’t checked, executives risk alienating their top performers and damaging morale throughout the entire organization.

·      Resistance – The more ingrained a team or individual’s role within the company structure, the harder it will be to implement change. Employees often feel threatened when senior management makes significant changes that they perceive as a slight to their importance. A lack of buy-in from key stakeholders can create serious roadblocks throughout the entire process, so it’s important to find ways to achieve consensus before moving forward.

·      Timing – Business leaders need to keep in mind that not all projects are created equal. Just because an initiative failed once doesn’t necessarily mean it will fail again if given another chance. Another unfortunate reality is that many do not have the time or resources necessary for the successful planning and implementation of new initiatives. While you should always aim high, teams sometimes need to tone down their goals in order to stay on track with deadlines, budgets, and other business priorities.

·      Budget – Successful business change doesn’t always come cheap. A thorough evaluation of what needs to be done and how much it will cost to achieve should take place before jumping in head-first. This process should be repeated throughout the life of an initiative so that managers can quickly assess whether or not the project is on track, and whether additional funds need to be allocated . When developing budgets for large-scale change initiatives, teams should keep in mind that costs related directly to executing a project (e.g., training , equipment , travel ) are one-time expenses that won’t recur once the change has been implemented successfully. On the other hand, ongoing expenses like salaries and benefits continue long after a project has been completed.

·      Lack of Support – People can’t be forced to change, which is why it’s always a good idea to have a support system in place before launching a major initiative. For example, providing training courses for managers will help them understand how they can most effectively encourage and motivate their employees during the process. A lack of upfront investment inevitably leads to issues down the road, so it’s important to think about all aspects of an organization when planning or initiating any business change.

·      Inadequate Managerial Leadership – Many initiatives fail because current leading executives aren’t willing to set aside their own personal agendas in order to present a unified front. When managers from different departments cannot agree on basic issues like messaging, priorities, and expectations, it can create confusion among employees. When the CEO or other key decision-makers are on board with an initiative, they send a clear message that all employees should support it as well.

·      Unwillingness to Adapt – It’s not uncommon for companies to get lost in their own bureaucracy, which can lead to outdated business practices even when the change would clearly benefit both managers and rank-and-file employees. While there are many benefits to consistency, being inflexible is rarely a winning strategy in today’s constantly evolving business landscape. Organizations who are unwilling to adapt will find themselves losing out on new opportunities while their competitors gain market share every day.

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