Change is an inevitable part of being a business owner. No matter how well your business is doing today, you have to be prepared to adapt and shift as circumstances change. This could mean changing to deal with difficulties such as economic impacts, a global pandemic, fluctuations in revenue, demand shifts, or adapting to take advantage of new opportunities. In all cases, planning for change is hugely important to help avoid disrupting your business. But, as the past few years taught us, sometimes big changes happen that are out of our control and we can be forced to adapt.
Let’s chat through a few simple ways that could help you prepare for future changes in your business.
Create a clear idea
Start planning with a clear idea of what you want the outcome of the change to be. Many people concentrate on the mechanics of the change without considering where they want it to lead – the how rather than the why. In order to keep a firm grasp of what the impact of the change should be, write down why change needs to happen by listing the current aspects of the business which you feel are holding you back.
Draw up a plan
Planning for change means having a clear roadmap to refer to at every stage. Not only will this help you to navigate around any problems which arise, it also means you have something to show to other stakeholders such as employees. A plan could the following:
What the outcome of the change should be
The reasons for change and the benefits it will deliver
What needs to be done in order to deliver the change
Who will perform the separate tasks involved in delivering change
Specific goals and targets to be met as staging posts while change is underway
Set specific goals
Planning for change effectively means creating a set of highly specific goals you wish to achieve. Rather than vague aims such as ‘business growth’ or ‘better cash flow’, set out clear targets. These could include how you want the business, post-change, to look and operate. Metrics to identify at this point of planning for change include:
Market share you want to achieve
The operating environment you wish to create
The way in which you want to interact with your customers
Part of a plan for change should involve the creation of milestones, enabling you to take the change process logically from one stage to the next and communicate this with your team. Once the goals and targets around these milestones have been set, they can either be ticked off as you meet them, or identified as having failed and needing to be addressed. The creation of stand-alone milestones also makes it easier to create a plan for change which is practical and gradual.
No matter what kind of change you want to introduce, it is vital that you take employees along with you through the process. This is only possible if you communicate clearly and from the very start of the process.
Tips for ensuring this happens include:
Tell employees about any changes as early as possible in the process. News like this should be delivered by leaders within the team, rather than leaking out to be spread amongst employees.
Explain the change you have planned, including the processes to deliver that change and the desired outcomes.
Establish that there are certain aspects of the plan for change which may be non-negotiable. These are those changes which you feel are essential and employees need to understand that this is the case.
Answer any questions your employees may have. As a general rule, people tend to be fearful of change and employees may worry that the changes you have in mind could negatively impact on their own particular roles. Try to honestly address these concerns and note that productivity may drop during this period of questioning and reflection.
Involve your employees
Having communicated with employees on your plan for change, also involve them in planning for these changes. Although you have already drawn up your own plan, the employees who work across the business on a day-to-day basis may be able to identify more efficient ways of doing things, or approaches which are more practical. In order to reach employees at every level of your business, use a range of media including emails, one-to-one meetings, information leaflets and group feedback sessions.
Change the culture
When the time comes to plan for change, it is extremely helpful if, in the past, you have created a culture within your business in which change and versatility are seen as the norm rather than as something hugely disruptive to be feared. Ways of embedding a culture of this kind could include the following:
Introduce change incrementally with small adjustments
Ensure the full participation of employees in all changes
Encourage employees to share their opinions and observations on planned changes and those which have taken place
Celebrate the success of these smaller changes as they become apparent
Create clarity and confidence
When planning for change, ensure that you approach every stage – particularly when engaging employees – with a high degree of confidence and clarity. If employees get the impression that you are uncertain about the change you’re planning, they will find it hard to embrace that change themselves. Similarly, if you’re not completely clear about what that change will involve, employees may find themselves caught by surprise and therefore less able to complete the tasks and processes you identified as being necessary when planning for change.