Successful change: two people you need, four things you can do
Objective: how to ensure change, big or small, is accomplished successfully despite operational challenges.
Initiating change is only half the battle won; sustaining that change till the finish line and getting the desired outcome is when you win the war. Accomplishing the change needs disciplined relentless pursuit in the face of everyday operational tasks and requires a culture which embraces and promotes change.
Change can be big and disruptive in the form of adding new product lines, implementing new technology, venturing into unchartered geographies, outsourcing functions and other major shifts in operations. These changes cut across the organization horizontally and demand a significant realignment of people, process and technology. Further, the span of these changes run across multiple years, undergoes executive turnover and has to be performed in conjunction with day to day operations. No wonder that most research shows that only 35% of the transformation change initiatives accomplish what they envisioned.
Incremental changes are limited in scope and duration and are improvements instead of transformations - such as making format changes to PO and vendor invoices for better sync. Unlike few and far betewen big changes, however, the incremental changes are continuously happening in the organizations at any given time.
How then can we ensure that change, transformational or incremental, stays its desired course despite day to day operational commitments and challenges?
Two people you need...
These recommendations if adopted and practiced over a period of 3-5 years will seep into the DNA of the organization and bring a cultural shift.
Dedicated Leader: once the executive buy-in is obtained for change it is essential that the baton is handed over to a leader who is committed and owns the change. This leader is responsible for ensuring that transformational or incremental changes carried out across the organization are successfully completed. The Dedicated Leader should not have significant day to day operational responsibilities to ensure the focus and commitment. He/she will be working with the operational leaders to handhold, support and continue the momentum.
A strong leader is essential to lead the change. Bringing change is not for faint hearted as no change happens without its due share of push backs and teething challenges. There will be initial nay-sayers who will complain about anything they can come across. The Dedicated Leader has to ensure that they stay firm despite all the pressure.
Change Champions: The execution for change has to happen at the operational level, at the shop floor and it is imperative that one of their own team members is championing that change. The operational player(s) who are enthusiastic, open and ready to embrace change, their operational day to day workload should be reduced and they should be made Change Champions, agents and ambassadors of change. Their operational expertise will be a huge plus when communicating change, they can speak operational language.
Change Champions will help to counter any negativity and misconceptions about the change then and there. They will be go-to person for the functions in case of any doubts. They will bring in to the Dedicated Leader on-the-ground realities of how change is being perceived and any course correction if things are getting derailed.
... and four things you can do
Relentless Communication: You cannot overcommunicate the message for change. If your throat gets soar after repeating same stuff umpteen times, you are on right path. Communication is the key to ingrain the culture of change in the heart of the organization. The need for communication does not stop on 'announcements' of projects. If you want people to continuously look for optimization opportunities, you need to continuously stress upon that need.
Comprehensive communication plans detailing out 'What, When, Who, How and How often' should be prepared. The message must be objective, simple to understand, easy to share and leave no room for ambiguity. Townhalls, posters, workshops, banners, events whatever it takes to get the message across and get the buy-in, is worth it.
Measure the change: the journey of change is monitored with milestones of performance. Divide and quantify the total change effort into small quantifiable milestones. Showcase the performance charts at visible places, so that people can see how their efforts to embrace change is adding to bottom line. For a cost savings project, showcase $$’s saved and $$’s to be saved.
Celebrate milestones: to keep the teams motivated, especially in transformation efforts when the change spans over years and conflicting priorities can derail it, milestones will help to know where and when you stopped and what roadmap you have to walk to finish the change.
Goals and rewards: Don’t stop at just measuring the performance, incorporate them into annual goals. Organizations should recognize and reward change champions and operational players who exceeded expectations in adopting the change. During performance reviews help them understand that doing business as usual is expected, thinking and working outside the box will help them get exceeding expectation ratings.
For making change effective, transformational or incremental, incorporate above recommendations into your daily operations and you will soon see culture changing. Adopting the changes may not be easy at first because change does not happen in the comfort zone. Everyone wants it so long as it does not affect their sandbox. Organizations must strive to bring a culture where change is seamlessly ingrained as part of their daily work and not as one time stretch.