Change is an ever-present component of small business ownership. The ability for small business owners to effectively manage change lays the groundwork for growth and helps build the foundation for the development of a positive corporate culture. What can small business owners do to make themselves better change leaders? What are the most important factors to consider when managing change?
Have a Plan and Take Small Steps.
Change is something that your small business is sure to experience. A great way to prepare yourself to manage change as a small business owner is to develop a change plan. Take a look at all facets of your business and write a simple list of strategies that take into account possible changes in each functional area. "Build a big plan with small steps. A 'big' plan isn't an enormous impenetrable document, it is the summation of big ideas necessary to build belief and overcome inertia...it functions as an overlay across the business to keep initiatives in balance" says Philip Stanley, Founder at Minutecoach in the U.K. "For the owners, small steps mitigate risk and allow fluidity of movement. If the pace of change gets a little aggressive or laggardly, you can jiggle your blocks into a new pattern."
One of the most important components of change management is effective communication. Terri Maurer, Planning and Strategies Consultant and Owner of The Maurer Consulting Group in Cleveland Ohio believes that "communication is the key to a smooth passage of change in any organization. Getting as many people as possible into the change process, even if it involves no more than gathering input from staff through management, will do much to move the process forward." She also mentions that keeping your team "appraised of what is going on and why" should facilitate a smooth transition. "Utilize as many channels of communications as possible: face to face meetings, company memos, e-mail, newsletters, company intranet, etc."
Vijay Shah, Engineer and Operation Manager at Bauer Controls in Detroit, developed the following list of change management best practices:
* Communication: Every change requires communicating the goal to all who are involved. And listening to the all who are involved.
* Humility – Understanding the constraint of your resources and making sure you do all in your power to accommodate.
* Democratic dictatorship – As someone said, “The Roman empire was not created by committee”, you need to communicate/listen but then take quick decision. It may not satisfy everyone but it will allow you to move forward knowing that you communicated with humility.
More Change Management Ideas.
I will leave you with a few more ideas on change management derived from "The Biggest Mistakes in Managing Change" (Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.):
1. Appreciate and acknowledge the importance of people in any change initiative. "Organizations don't change. People do -- or they don't." Whenever possible, include your employees in any change discussions and recognize that each person may react to a specific change differently. Let people know the reasons for change and include them in any change planning conversations.
2. Treat change as a "mental, emotional and physical process" as opposed to another business "event". Acknowledge the fact that change may be a very emotional process for your team.
3. Direct, honest communication is the best policy. Don't attempt to "protect" your employees by withholding facts about any pending changes or trying to spin doctor the details. Also be aware of communicating change in a timely fashion - people are smart and will figure out pretty quickly that something is up. If you create an information vacuum by ignoring the need to communicate changes quickly, your team will fill the vacuum with their own interpretation of the changes are taking place.
4. Believe in the potential of your group and their ability to embrace change and flourish. "Trust in the innate intelligence, capability, and creativity of your employees -- and people will astound you."