The importance of approaching change management proactively

By Robert Half on 16th February 2016

One thing is certain in today’s world and that is change is the only constant. So it is odd that change management is often treated as a proactive measure after project management has been implemented. Businesses are well aware of the importance of change management as even minor impacts can affect large numbers of people. However being proactive enough to changes within an industry or company can be what makes or breaks how a company adopts a new process or system.

Adopting technology, adhering to new regulation, adjusting to a merger or acquisition, they all have become increasingly common challenges for businesses to overcome. However change and innovation can only be successful within a company if it is communicated and implemented to employees in a manner that is suitable and adapted to each situation. Because after all, it is a company’s employees that make it great.

Why be proactive about change management?

A new product, a different customer-facing system or a project to communicate a new piece of regulatory guidance – all of these affect employees and businesses in some way. The key to whether they have a positive or negative impact comes down to how change management is implemented – has it been a reactive or proactive approach. If a reactive approach is taken then employees may already have a preconceived idea or concept that can be hard to adjust.

One measure company’s can adopt to ensure their process results in a positive embrace is to appoint someone to be a ‘change manager’ internally. This offers employees a chance to be comfortable about raising their concerns without being concerned about speaking to their senior managers. A successful implementation of a new system, for example, doesn’t end when that new system is installed. Instead of waiting until a project has been finished, having a visible face to change management ensures any issues are being dealt with as they arise – rather than waiting until completion.

Ensuring that the right people are on-board to make these changes and that they’re implemented smoothly into the fabric of the organisation, with that fabric very much including its people, is essential. Such a vital component of change management should never be an afterthought. It should be considered and actioned right at the very outset of every project. Businesses should therefore recognise that when undertaking measures that will impact processes, it is vital to have experienced people involved to ensure the transition operates smoothly.

Ensuring change management is about people

Change management requires considering not only the wider impact of a project on the business, but the personal affect the changes will have on the day to day working lives of the people within an organisation. Change management does not simply mean communicating what will impact people. It is integral to the process but, in order to gain their support, they must be engaged from the beginning.

This means involving the right people at the beginning in the design and implementation stage rather than at a completion stage – no matter the project. One struggle businesses often encounter is not having the experience of going through a process of change and how to manage the implications that come with it. A solution that can be adopted is bringing in interim professional(s) who can hit the ground running with a history of producing a positive result through change management.

This approach allows leadership to focus not only on the future of the business, but on its people too. This means continuing giving people the right information, training, and help and support so that they are prepared for the changes coming and that they understand why the changes are being made. Whether that means bringing in an interim expert to project manage or identifying someone internally – it’s important to have someone who has experience in the potential challenges that will need to be overcome.

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