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The Ultimate Guide to Delivering Successful Business Change

Why is business change important? We live in a time of unprecedented uncertainty whether it be the ongoing impact of Covid 19 both personally and economically through to our impeding exit from the EU. As a result change is around us more than ever before and the need to reflect on both in a business […]

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Why is business change important?

We live in a time of unprecedented uncertainty whether it be the ongoing impact of Covid 19 both personally and economically through to our impeding exit from the EU. As a result change is around us more than ever before and the need to reflect on both in a business and personal context has never been more important. Whether this is the need to achieve greater flexibility between working from home and the office or to better support your mental health & wellbeing at a time when family and friend aren’t as accessible as they once were.

It’s important to accept that change is the only constant we can be certain of and as a result we owe it to ourselves and our businesses to take ourselves out of the day to day running to reflect on the strategic direction we want for the future whether that be the next 12 months, 3 years or 5 years.

How do I know I need to make a change? And the reasons for making change

As businesses grow and evolve there will inevitably be a need for change it could be due to the following factors: Crisis, Poor Performance, Evolving Technology, New Opportunities, Reaction to Internal & External Pressure, Mergers & Acquisitions & Product and Service Changes.

Once you have identified the reason for change it’s critical to understand how the change affects the long term strategy that you have identified for your business and what impact any new opportunities and challenges will have. You should look to translate these into a set of short- & long-term goals that are relevant to your existing strategy. The question is how?

Defining effective goals and why it’s important

When defining your goals, it’s important to consider the following:

  • What specifically do you want to achieve? Clarify what you do want, not what you don’t.
  • What date do you want to achieve it by? Be precise commit yourself to a date on your calendar. Be demanding of yourself by openly making a promise in front of others to this date.
  • How will you know you have succeeded? Think about what an external auditor would look for e.g. time, cost, quality improvements.
  • What is your goal in one clearly defined sentence?
  • What’s your vision of success? When you close your eyes what will you see, hear & feel.
  • What risks could you encounter when and what could you do to mitigate them. Who or what might prove to be an obstacle?

Identifying, planning what activity you need to complete and why having a plan is essential

Once you have clearly defined your business change goals the next step is to determine what tasks need to be completed to lead you, your business and your people through the change you have committed to make.

The most effective way to do this is to think about the following:

  • What tasks you need to complete.
  • What resources are available to you, think materials, people, equipment etc
  • Who else can you involve to help you think through, mobilise and implement your plan. What could you learn from their experiences?
  • How will you engage people to help them understand what help you need? Think about what you could do to gain their commitment.
  • What risks can you foresee that will prevent you from achieving your goal? Take time to write these down and develop a plan to mitigate them with owners assigned to ensure they don’t become an issue further down the line.
  • What else, how else, who else. When you have completed this exercise go through what you have captured to ensure there is nothing you have missed. Having others help you with this would give an additional pair of eyes and an additional opportunity to support and challenge assumptions.

Defining your priorities and deciding what to do first

So, once you have identified and planned the work that needs to be done the next step is to prioritise to get them in the right order and to be clear on what needs to be done first.

The question is, how can you do this effectively? Consider the following:

  • Which of the jobs on your newly created priority list is your fist priority, which is second etc. Work down the list you have created putting the jobs in order of importance.
  • Take each priority and decide when you’re going to do each one. Set yourself clear deadlines for each. It would also be a good idea at this point to build yourself a plan with all the activity and dates on. There are many project planning templates available, Excel has one as part of it’s standard suite.
  • Consider who you can involve to help you deliver the tasks you have identified, who has a skill set that you don’t. Think about how you will get their commitment to the work that needs to be done. If you’ve created a plan it’s good practice to put their name next to the task so you can be clear on who is accountable for what.
  • What is your own level of self-belief in making the changes to your business, how committed are you to doing what’s necessary? How strong is your reason why, are you willing to stop doing other stuff to deliver this?
  • Reflect on how much personal accountability you’re willing to take, you will be the driving force of the change so it’s important to recognise how personally committed to delivery you’ll be. Who do you have in your business that can help to hold you accountable?
  • How are you going to measure the results and monitor progress, this could be done in a business wide meeting where activity is reviewed to understand if it’s been delivered on time and to the expected standard.
  • Finally, commit to your first action. Set yourself a deadline for achieving it, it’s important to experience early successes to keep your motivation and by doing this you can steal your first quick win.

Time to get creative, what else will make your business change successful

What else should you think about when planning business change, here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Imagine you were a fly on what wall what would the change you’re making look like, what insights would you gather.
  • Do some what if planning, approach it with no self-limiting boundaries. As an example, what could be the most outrageous thing that could go wrong.
  • Think about what would definitely not work, so you can ensure it doesn’t happen when start to make the change to your business.
  • Think about how you could do things quickly and more effectively, as an example could you do two tasks concurrently to realise benefit sooner.
  • What other materials could you access to support you, consider looking for blogs to read, YouTube tutorials to watch etc.
  • What pledge could you make and who could you make it to in order hold yourself to account. Making a pledge in public will hold the tension on the commitment you have made.
  • Finally, what immediate action can you take to get things moving. As the saying goes ‘strike while the iron is hot’

‘Remember the only constant in life is change’ Buddha

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