There are 4 aspects of structural change in business. First the scale of the change does impact the whole of the business. Secondly the magnitude of change does more than shake up the status quo. Third the duration of the change lasts for a longer term period perhaps several years. The fourth aspect is the strategic importance that the endeavor will have as far as the viability of the business is concerned.
The following principles serve as guidelines for engaging the entire business top to bottom in the process.
- Begin at the top of the business.
When the CEO and other members of the leadership team are uncertain, or ambivalent, about a change process the entire process is at risk. To have downstream results the leadership needs to be on board with clear demonstration of being engaged to deliver the results required.
- Instill ownership.
It takes more than passive agreement or surface buy-in for change to happen and take hold. People must be engaged in designing solutions. Incentives and rewards are useful to emphasize and bolster the implementation of the new.
- Know the business culture.
When assumptions are made about values, beliefs, and behaviors there will surely be unplanned for resistance to what is being developed. Once the elements of values, beliefs and behavior have been identified new models for working within each business and department may be put forward for initial discussion. It is quite likely that the initial suggestions will be modified, or go through several iterations prior to achieving sufficient agreement for acceptance.
- Have a contingency plan.
Change programs seldom if ever go as planned. Reactions to the process may be unexpected. There may be changes to the leadership team midstream. The ability to work with the business and keep communication lines open during periods of duress is essential. Build some extra time in to deal with the unexpected. Being flexible and prepared to address challenges is part and parcel of the process.
- Be specific with people.
Change is about people and process. Be explicit with change managers and leaders as to how roles and functions are likely to be different. Make certain that people are involved in the change process and have incentives in place to encourage their active participation.
These principles do not guarantee a smooth process. They do however provide a solid basis from which to design, introduce, and implement plans and processes for the business. Valuing the people involved is central to the success of the overall enterprise.
Marie-Helene Sakowski, Business Consultant SME’s, firstname.lastname@example.org