The art of change management has grown in relevance over the last couple of years, with organisations realising its importance in successful transformation programmes. However, given the nature of the global pandemic and ever-changing government guidance, much recent change management activity has had to be reactive, rather than considered and strategic.
As we settle into new ways of working in 2022, with the freedom to be more proactive again, we can consider how business change can be better managed to support the achievement of organisational goals and objectives. Here are five areas to focus on to improve how you manage change within your business…
As the value of change management has become more widely recognised, it’s now more likely that it will be considered at the start of a project, rather than part way through. Although it can be tricky to employ traditional change management tools and techniques before change has been fully defined, you can still lay the foundations for successful business change by establishing good relationships and engaging with stakeholders to fully understand the challenges they face.
During this period of a project, honesty and transparency are particularly important, especially if stakeholders are aware that change is imminent. Maintaining regular and open dialogue will help to build trust and reassure individuals that they will be listened to throughout the process.
This is also a fantastic opportunity to develop and socialise a project vision. Defining what success looks like for a project can help to secure buy-in for change and promote a shared sense of purpose.
Identifying and defining benefits
Benefit management is a key part of conducting effective business change. This involves the planning, tracking and realisation, but begins with identification and definition. Conducting this first step correctly is essential to benefit realisation, and therefore the overall success of a project. Doing this during the ‘laying foundations’ stage ensures that a project is led by benefits rather than solutions, and that adequate resource is provided – something that may be limited in the year ahead.
You can enhance benefit identification and definition by involving stakeholders in this activity. A series of benefits workshops, designed to capture a diverse range of perspectives can also demonstrate the benefits of collaborative working, while subtly building support for the initiative.
Although actually tracking and measuring benefits comes later, the definition of a benefit should ideally include how it can be measured. This allows you to demonstrate what has been achieved throughout a project and provides evidence of success. Meaningful metrics and key performance indicators can be determined through discussions with stakeholders, and should be related to an organisation’s overall strategy.
Benefits should be defined in a way that makes sense to stakeholders, and their definitions should reflect and clearly support the organisation’s objectives.
Closing the loop
Although engaging stakeholders throughout a project is an essential part of effective business change management, in 2022, try to enhance your focus on what happens after these engagements.
This could take the form of developing a ‘You Said, We Listened’ style page on an intranet or SharePoint site, or organising follow up meetings to explain to stakeholders how their feedback has been used.
Sharing feedback received and how it has been used will help to show that stakeholders have been listened to, while building support for a change initiative. This encourages further feedback, and engages stakeholders in developing solutions, which can be tested and refined throughout the project.
Joining up the conversation
In 2022, you can better manage business change by making sure that messages about change initiatives align with other communication, supporting a joined up experience for stakeholders.
To do this well, you will need to consider what else is happening across the organisation, and how various projects or realignments relate to each other. After two years of uncertainty, stakeholders need clear messaging about what is changing and why, and how this feeds into the company’s purpose.
Building close relationships with other communications professionals around the business is vital, particularly the Internal Communications team, who are usually best placed to review messages more holistically.
One final way to better manage business change in 2022 is simply to take action. Many change activities have been paused since 2020, with organisations hesitant to disrupt ways of working any more than necessary. Fatigue from so much pandemic-related change has put many large-scale initiatives on hold, stalling business growth and development.
Now, with a new year ahead, you need to understand how to tackle these concerns so that organisations can proceed with change programmes, allowing them to adapt within a competitive marketplace and remain successful.
This can be done through well-planned stakeholder engagement that best utilises new ways of working. This includes using online tools to facilitate collaborative working in big groups, and to gather and analyse data in real time, as well as using face-to-face events to encourage creativity and networking when possible.
I encourage you to focus on supporting your senior leadership team to start making positive change for the future, building their confidence to make this a success.
Author: Jessica Gow – Change Management Registered Practitioner