Managing change can be more important than the process itself

By: Stan Corner

There’s an old saying that I’m sure everyone reading this has heard many times: The only constant is change. It’s an accurate one as we all experience fast-paced change in our daily lives, fuelled predominately by technology.

This can be a challenge for many businesses. It’s no secret that many projects fail to achieve the right outcomes, and often the reason for this comes down to how the change is managed. This same conclusion is seen in research and in anecdotal stories around project failure.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to changing a process within your business. For all of us, business processes are crucial to the way we work and service our customers. It’s often why they’re blamed when something goes wrong, and conversely, applauded when it goes right.

Communication and planning

Business process is a constantly evolving beast, making change inevitable. The challenge is to ensure that you factor change management into your thinking, focusing on how it is implemented across your business. The two core elements of a good change management program are reasonably straightforward: Planning and communication.

As the great Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”. He’s right, devoting time to planning your process change gives you the foundations to get it right. Firstly, you need to establish that you’re making the change for the right reason, i.e. that it’s actually required, and based on solid evidence. Secondly, you need to focus specifically on how you’re going to rollout this change with your team. Understanding the impact the change will make and planning for it is critical.

Ensuring that change is clearly communicated might sound simple, but it’s the part that often goes wrong. It’s not just communicating a change for communications sake: Poor communication still gives you the same result (and potentially an even worse one!) as none at all. Focusing with your team on why the change is happening and what’s in it for them. It’s not just a case of sending out email updates, you need to think about how you’re engaging your stakeholders to ensure everyone knows exactly what is happening, and why it’s important.

Be prepared to adapt

Even with a strong planning and communication program in place, it’s likely that you’re going to need to review the plan at some point during the implementation. Remember it’s a journey, and like any journey, there can be course corrections along the way.

People aren’t robots, so being able to adapt if something isn’t working will enable you and your team to better manage change.

Embrace disruption

For all of us, the change cycle is becoming shorter and shorter. It’s not just internally where we will feel the impact of this, it’s something our customers will demand of us too. Disruption is now part of the landscape and we need to be ready to embrace it. It might seem harder to adapt in a digital world, but the key, from my perspective, is to realise that this change will happen anyway, so make sure you’re ready.

To finish on another Churchill quote: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”. Focus on this and you will be more likely to chalk up a win with your next process change.