If you are asking that question, it probably means you should have already started.
What’s more, you need to understand that change isn’t something that begins and ends in your organization. Best-in-class companies accept that change is constant and realize that it is both inevitable and essential. In fact, long-term success depends on your organization being as committed to change as it is to getting the payroll out on time, paying taxes, improving plant floor safety, and hiring the best resources. None of those things happen by accident and neither does change.
Jack Welch, due largely to his transformation of GE, made himself one of the most influential managers of his generation. Perhaps the best advice given by Jack Welch was:
Change before you have to. Never be happy where you are. Get a culture at your company that loves change. And every time there’s a quantum change [in the business world], jump!”
Going beyond acceptance and actually becoming good at change is an enormous advantage that can help you gain on, and then surpass, the performance of your competition.
The importance of an eyes-wide-open recognition of the need to change was driven home to me long before “change management” was talked about, much less popularized.
In the mid-90s I had an opportunity to consult to the world’s leading manufacturer of cameras and silver halide film. I was thrilled to have a chance to work with the executive team of one of America’s leading corporations. I knew that they had the might, reach, and revenue to change their company, their industry, and the world.
However, what I learned was that the influence of the executive team was surpassed only by their belief that nothing at their company needed to change. Unfortunately, their refusal to acknowledge the need for change couldn’t forestall the shift to digital photography.
The executive team’s resistance to change was like a group of people standing on a beach at high tide hoping that the sand wouldn’t move beneath their feet. Resolute in their desire not to change…they stood still while everything they had built washed away.
To make sure that this doesn’t happen to your organization you should regularly employ the following tactics:
1. Ask your employees – especially those closest to your customers
Find out what they view as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business – and really listen to what they have say. Look for repetition of themes. This information is golden and you would be ill-advised to ignore it. Then, directly ask your customers how you can serve them better. Take action to ensure that you will be where your customers need you to go.
2. Stop doing things in the same way that you have always done them and expecting different results
There are many signs that the time for change is slipping away; sales volumes may be down, product quality could be suffering, turnover might be high, competition could be growing. An attitude of malaise is a serious warning sign that there are problems ahead for your organization.
3. Create an environment where people see change as something good
Change will keep your organization vital. The right messaging will ensure that staff understands that they will have jobs because of change – not despite it. Think of making progress towards change as a journey that shouldn’t end. You need committed staff to come on the journey with you.
4. Employ proven techniques to communicate and implement change
Change Management practitioners have been developing and honing proven techniques since 1985. You don’t have to leave results to chance in your organization. Timing, budgets, resources, and results are all predictable outcomes which can be anticipated and achieved with the right approach.
5. Seek the opinion of a third party advisor
Choose a partner who can look at your organization, operations, strategies, and processes with an objective eye. Do your actions back up your talk? If things are out of alignment, don’t hesitate to get the expert help required to fix them. Half-measures don’t cut it in keeping up with today’s pace of change.
When it comes to change, the time to change was yesterday, now, tomorrow and the day after.
Set the example that you are committed to change and that you expect people to follow your lead. After all, it is the strength of your ideas, the clarity of your vision, and the consistency of communication at all levels that will make your business changes a success.