To make effective and sustainable change management a business owner must begin with self assessment. The driving force of exciting your staff and encouraging them to make changes will be in the passion that you, as an individual and owner, have to invest in the change. Passion for a change is the driving force of many businesses, but sustaining the passion is a challenge and often loses its focus as we become bogged down in the daily grind of just keeping others enthusiastic.
It is important to periodically take your passion pulse to make sure that you are maintaining the kind of passion for your product or service that is necessary to instill the same passion for success in your staff.
If you notice that the drive seems to be ebbing from your staff or that the enthusiasm is falling, be sure to check the mirror first before deciding that the needed change lies with your staff. Remember, you are the driver of the passion, if you lose it the rest of your group will lose it as well.
It is important to start with a clear vision. But even more importantly the vision must be flexible enough to adapt and grow as needed. Too often the vision of a business reaches a point where it is holding growth back before it is re-evaluated and restructured. If your vision begins as an evolving, growing, living thing, then you can easily make changes and adaptations as needed without the customary pitfalls that happen with a structured and inflexible vision.
Your vision should be vibrant and encompass not only the future, but also the present. A vision statement contains three major parts:
- Where we are at and why. For example, are we just starting our business or facing new growth opportunities. Have we recently changed directions of our product or service, where do we see ourselves right now.
- Where do we want to be, realistically, in a specific number of months or a year? Not the specifics for “how” we are going to get there (that is for our marketing strategy and plan), but rather just a broad brush stroke of where we really see ourselves getting in a specific period of time. A reachable goal.
- Where do we want to go. This is my personal favorite, as there is no need to consider whether or not we “can” make this part of our vision happen. Rather, we are stating our vision in the ideal situation, with nothing going wrong and all systems go.
As you can see from the three parts of our vision, they are adaptable. A vision for our business should be re-evaluated at least yearly with a skeptical eye. Each part should be assessed and evaluated. If you are moving in the right direction the three parts of your vision will be moving. Until number three has become number one, while you have added a new two and three to your vision statement.
Sharing a clear vision statement with your staff is critical to making change management sustainable. In order for people to make changes in their life and work they must see a reason, must see a benefit and must be challenged. I once heard a teacher I greatly respected say that “kids will live up to your highest, or down to your lowest expectations.” Very few people have it in their nature to create their own expectations from a vague statement purporting to be a vision of a business. Make sure that you know your vision well enough to be able to explain it in simple language to any business associate in your company.
Another area of importance is clear objectives. I have often seen business associates get mired down in the details of objectives to the point that their staff could not offer any creative input or constructive criticism for fear of stepping on the “objective” egg shell. Your objectives, just like your vision should be something living and evolving. Objectives should not be written in terms of what will happen if people don’t live up to them. Associates who have a tendency to write yearly objectives for their staff, and then wonder why their staff don’t or can’t complete the yearly objectives amaze me. A staff member who cannot or will not meet certain objectives is making a non-verbal statement. Too often managers of the organization do not open a dialogue with their staff, but rather punish them for their lack of effort. When your staff look at the term objective in a negative way, your setting objectives for your business means that you are going to be driving an unsustainable objective or change. Be sure that in your business you commit to making “objective” a positive and inclusive term. Something that allows your staff members to use their creativity and hidden skills and knowledge to achieve the goals and objectives you set for your business.
You may have tried and failed several times to create an environment conducive for change in your business. But, without buy-in and personal investment from your associates and staff you will find that change management becomes a catch-all phrase that really doesn’t mean much. For change management to be sustainable you must first get buy-in and personal investment from all of the stakeholders involved in the change. Change management does not mean waking up one morning and deciding that your business will run a whole lot better if x, y and z are implemented immediately and then thrusting it upon your staff. Change Management is a process that first involves your staff and associates and because of this it is important that there be discussion of how the change will be implemented based on the vision and objectives that you have clearly expressed earlier.
As we have mentioned previously. People will drive change with enthusiasm if they see a clear reason and have a personal commitment to see the change be sustainable and successful. If you are the type of manager or business owner who comes up with a new idea for change management weekly and then lets it slide into the unknown, then you are going to have a real problem convincing those folks who have worked for you for some time that you really mean it this time.
The way you are going to convince anyone of your commitment to change management is to first establish clear visions and objectives that support the need for change and then clearly define the benefit to those individuals who will be implementing the change.
While change management may start with the head an organization or owner of a business, it will be sustained, or end with the staff of that organization or business. Your employees and their talent are your greatest asset. If you choose to pigeon-hole certain staff, and hide their creative light under a bushel it is to you and your company’s disadvantage since you will wind up paying an outside source to perform functions of people you already have on staff.
It is important when you are attempting to implement change management that you find out what the inherent skills of all of your employees are and utilize those skills and talent. Provide opportunities for your staff to grow and learn within your business and your training dollars will not constantly go towards the training of new staff in old skills. It is important that part of your change management strategy be to implement all of your resources. In order to implement those resources you must know what they are. For this reason it is important that you take the pulse of your business associates and staff as often as you take the pulse of your passion about your product or service.