How to Create Successful Business Change

Sustainable businesses understand that change is inevitable in a global economy. Understanding resistance to change, identifying when it’s time to make a change and creating methods and strategies to help everyone adjust to changes is vital to ensure long-term ROI. From mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, all businesses can benefit from adapting to change. Outlined below are some insights on how to better leverage growth and adapt to changing workplace culture within an organization while minimizing growing pains.

Why Do We Resist Change?

Making significant changes in internal structure, management processes, workflows or even software systems can be frightening for business owners. These changes can also become threatening and overwhelming for employees. Proposals for reform can feel risky from a financial point of view, but fear shouldn’t stop an organization from taking risks.

To understand the urgency of being proactive to change, let’s look at what happened to Kodak. In their prime, Kodak was the leading industry film photography resource, yet declared bankruptcy in 2012. A massive reason for their bankruptcy was that Kodak’s management failed to think innovatively and to adequately prepare themselves for the changing landscape of photography. While their competitors were jumping on the digital bandwagon, Kodak was dragging its feet.

Kodak’s failure to change ended in bankruptcy. Anticipating and preparing for trends can spare another organization from a similar fate.

Deciding When and How to Change

There is a very popular saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is a destructive and misguided approach when taken to heart in any business venture. Changes should occur frequently and fluidly before a crisis occurs. However, it’s not always easy to identify when systems need to be changed until there is a crisis.

For example, consider a marketing department that is running paid ads on Facebook with a target demographic of young adults between the ages of 18-23. They believe that Facebook is the proper platform for their ads because, historically, it’s been a successful route for them. In their past paid digital advertisements, they’ve marketed products and services for health and wellness in the 35-40 target demographic range with smashing success. They think, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Yet their Facebook ads for young adults fail while devastating their marketing budget.

This example serves to illustrate the negative impact that not adapting until a crisis can have on a company. If the team had been in a culture that was open and proactive to change, they might have found that their past marketing efforts had been so successful because of demographics. Younger people are moving away from Facebook, while older generations stay put. If they had moved their paid ads to another platform, perhaps they would have been more successful in marketing to a younger audience.

When a system or process is no longer useful, it may show in different ways. If meetings are running long and ending without clear conclusions, if employees are checking out, if shipments are being delivered late, or if staff is visibly overwhelmed and resentful, these may be cues that real changes need to take place.

The goal of anticipating change is to avoid find your business with its back against a wall, scrambling to correct an error or keep up with competitors. Companies should be checking their processes quarterly and adjusting accordingly. Anticipation and preparation are vital.

Promoting Change in Your Business

Promoting change within an organization can feel like an attack on the old methods. This can feel personal to those who cultivated and nurtured the previous methods. When people feel defensive, they’re less likely to be open to the idea of changing ways. Taking care to explain the need for reform without badmouthing the old ways of doing things can help people feel less defensive and better see the logic of the change. Fostering a foundation of transparent and authentic communication can help management and employees alike feel that their concerns are being heard.

Helping Employers and Employees Adapt to Business Change

Providing training is the single most effective way to empower employers and employees to change. Online training for new software or methodologies can help conceptualize information. Corporate training can help management understand how to implement new structures to their teams and how to provide valuable information to communicate these changes. Investing in employee training creates trust and helps employees feel more secure navigating changes of any kind.

Next Steps

Creating a change can be a difficult task, whether the change is big or small. By cultivating effective communication and empowering all team members, you can make change feel exciting (especially when trackable results start becoming apparent.) Start planning ahead now with our course strategic agility and systematic innovations, which will help you anticipate your needs for change and plan changes that will improve work processes.

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