Managing Change

leadership managing changeChange before you have to – Jack Welch

Change inside an organization is the one constant you can count on. If change doesn’t happen, growth slows and eventually, obsolescence takes over. Few like it, most complain about it and just wish we would stop tinkering with things and let it be, but as leaders, we can’t. However, changing things for change sake is never a good strategy and usually leads to chaos, as does poorly managed change.

So how do you do it well? Just to be clear, it’s hard. Start with the premise that it will take work and won’t be a breeze and you’re already a few steps ahead. Another assumption you need to make is that change is a constant. The minute you change something, no matter how well thought out, an unintended consequence will show up. The theory of constraints says that the minute you fix (change) one thing, you cause something else in the flow to break or need work. It’s a never-ending process and for most entrepreneurs, it’s half the fun. For employees, not so much.

Here are some steps that I’ve used and have seen work in the past, (and no doubt will need to be changed going forward)! But it’s a start:

  • Be crystal clear about the problem you are solving.
  • Do not plan for one change to solve multiple problems – if it does, you got lucky.
  • Once the problem is defined, brainstorm multiple ways to solve it.
  • Choose the best option, (usually least risk, biggest reward is the combination you want).
  • Map out the steps.
  • Define success.
  • Assign someone to “own” the process and outcome.
  • If this change involves people, (employees, customers, vendors) craft your “why” story.
  • If necessary, find an early adopter to prove the concept.
  • Practice your “why” story as if you were on CNN – is that really how you want it to sound?
  • Play devil’s advocate, what could go wrong?
  • Plan for contingencies.
  • Roll it out and debrief at multiple points to inspect what you expect.
  • Do a post mortem – what went well, what didn’t, what will we do differently next time?
  • Celebrate!

Depending upon the size, scope, and significance of the change, you may not have to follow all the steps above, but once you get a process down that works for you, keep it until it no longer works. Remember, the change process will need to be changed too! Keep a positive attitude and you might actually have some fun with it.