In life, the only constant is change. In fast-growing companies, change is guaranteed. Enter change management, the organizational practice of understanding and defining change, planning for it, implementing it and communicating about it.
“Change is a part of life. So you should prepare for it at all times. Rapid growth requires change in every function and aspect of your business. If you expect and forecast growth, you must prepare for change,” says Mike Sipple Jr. CEO of Centennial, an executive recruiting company, and Talent Magnet Institute®, a leadership development consultancy.
What is change management?
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines change management as the methods and manners a company uses to describe and implement change both internally and externally. This includes preparing and supporting employees, establishing a roadmap for change, as well as following up and monitoring progress to ensure change is successfully implemented.
“Significant organizational change can be challenging. It often requires many levels of cooperation and may involve different independent entities within an organization. Developing a structured approach to change is critical to help ensure a beneficial transition while mitigating disruption,” according to ASQ.
Change fails because we are human beings. We are wired to resist change since it comes with an element of unknown–read, scary. The more leaders address and plan for the unknown with their teams, the higher the chances of successful change implementation.
Change management is beneficial because it addresses that human tendency proactively and systematically, through the use of strategic and operational processes that are not left to luck.
Below are five change management principles to embrace with your team during periods of fast growth, when it matters the most.
1. Growth happens fast but change takes time
The irony of rapid growth is that it’s, by definition, quick. But despite what is happening on the outside, change takes time. And that’s where you can run into challenges. The first change management principle to embrace is the fact that successful change requires patience.
“Successful change is a journey and not an event. Patience and alignment with your team will be critical to success,” says Sipple Jr.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight. Change means disrupting what is expected and shifting what others know and define as comfortable and safe. Preparation and communication are critical, and you can’t start either one soon enough. You are planting seeds every day to create a trust that enables successful change.”
2. Implement a support framework
How can you support your team through the process of change? This essential question should be one of the main drivers of any change management initiative.
“It’s critical to provide a support structure to help employees and coworkers mentally and practically adjust to the shift and develop the behavioral and technical skills needed to accomplish targeted business outcomes,” adds Jeff Mains, a five-time entrepreneur and CEO of Champion Leadership Group LLC.
If specific changes result in layoffs or reorganizations and you’re part of the leadership team, Mains recommends providing support such as counseling services to help your team cope. And your doors must remain open too. “A mentorship program or an open-door approach with management to raise issues as they emerge can help staff adjust to changes.”
3. Figure out who will be impacted
Mains also says figuring out who will be impacted by the change is crucial:
“Once you have determined precisely what you want to accomplish and why you want to do it, you should consider the implications of the change at different organizational levels. Examine the impact on each business unit and how it cascades down the organizational structure to reach the individual employee.”
Then, he recommends using this information to create a roadmap and implement training and assistance in the teams and areas where it will be needed the most to reduce the consequences and impact of change.
4. Focus on people before anything
“Nothing changes without people aligning and believing they can help make change a reality. Change isn’t easy but the more you focus on the human element of change, the more successful you will be,” says Sipple Jr.
According to him, the difference between teams that successfully implement change and teams that don’t lie in the focus on people, trust, belief, alignment and understanding: “Focus on your people-leadership skills and it will take you far.”
5. Integrate change management in processes
Perhaps one of the most essential principles is integrating change management in your organization through systems and processes. Managing change shouldn’t be seen as a luxury or afterthought or something that will happen organically.
“Change management is the engine that propels effective adaptation and successful organizational change. It enables workers to comprehend and commit to the shift, as well as to perform efficiently throughout it,” says Mains.
“Without good administrative change management, business turnarounds may be bumpy and costly in terms of both time and resources, impeding the company’s ability to achieve fast development and success in the long run.”
And again, remember to put people at the center of your change management workflows for best results. “Trust, compassion and transparency are the top three traits you must focus on for a successful change,” says Sipple Jr.