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Although employees are often not keen on any change at the company, you – as an executive – are seeking internal transformation and renewal. But changes don’t always have to be big. Let’s look at change another way, namely from an optimization standpoint. Using the introduction of a social intranet as an example, we will give you valuable tips and hints that will help you plan and implement change at your company.
Three questions that all executives should be able to answer before initiating change
- Why does the change have to be made?
- What are the goals of the change?
- What does the change mean for each and every employee?
Three approaches to change management
Turning those affected into active contributors
It is important for all employees to understand the upcoming change – i.e. the launch of a social intranet – both intellectually and emotionally. Executives need to communicate to the workforce why it’s worth investing time and effort. Change management hinges on explanation and guidance, with both factors helping to dispel any fears that employees may have and enabling them to see the benefit of the change. In other words, it’s vital to turn those affected into active contributors and to involve employees in the social intranet project as early as possible.
Inform everyone at the company in an open and honest way
As an executive, you should keep on explaining the benefits of a social intranet to employees. After all, they should firmly believe in the idea behind the change. If this is not the case, you should attempt to win them over and point out how it will improve their day-to-day working lives. Belief gives rise to motivation and passion – both of which can be invested back into the project.
Avoid making wholesale changes if things work well
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as they say. And they’re right. If processes have established themselves within your company, they don’t necessarily need to be fully overhauled. Instead of forcing through change, successful practices should be left intact. The secret is to optimize and build on sound existing processes instead of replacing them completely – especially on the grounds that change is all the rage.
Coming back to our sample project, the launch of a new intranet only makes sense if, for example, the existing system lacks vital functions, is not sufficiently used, or if the software is no longer being updated.
The three most common mistakes that you can make in change management
Giving orders and dictating what to do
As a leader, you should not fall into the trap of delegating tasks relevant to the change down from the management level or, even worse, dictating what to do. So what are your alternatives? The objective of the change should be communicated clearly and, wherever possible, you should let employees embark on the journey of change instead of keeping them on a short leash. You should also set a good example and be a role model for other executives.
In terms of our sample project, it is therefore important to clarify how a social intranet will support the long-term and strategic goals of the company. How will the use of a social intranet improve life in the various departments? Here, a collaborative task management plan can help to set priorities and responsibilities within the project group.
Failing to take clear decisions
Working with your employees as an equal will no doubt be well received, but it can also lead to aimlessness and confusion. You should therefore start by clarifying whether the upcoming change is necessary in the first place. The decision to launch the social intranet should be followed by further clear decisions – and these decisions must be communicated to all key people. If this does not happen, it may result in a classic case of collective “procrastinitis.” If nobody knows what’s going on, the project cannot move forward.
A little tip: as soon as the social intranet is up and running, it is a good idea for the employees to gradually get used to the new environment. You could, for example, activate functions one or two at a time, starting with the most important ones.
Wanting to do too much, too soon
As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that your employees are not inundated with too many tasks at once. This can leave them feeling overwhelmed. If that happens, their personal motivation will decline. In turn, this hampers the progress of the change project. That’s why we recommend working with a pilot group. Once installed, the new social intranet should not be made available to the entire company right away. It makes more sense for a group of employees to put the system through its paces. It’s a good idea to get one employee per department on board in order to cover as many usage scenarios as possible. Therefore, both useful and unimportant features are tested, allowing comprehensive feedback to be gathered from all parties. Using this feedback, the intranet can then be set up in a sensible way and brought to life.
As an executive, you can obtain regular status updates and share ideas with your project group. This not only builds trust, but also helps to identify and eliminate obstacles.
Now that you have read the article, you will be aware that a lot needs to happen before a change process can be successfully implemented. Change can rarely be implemented on an ad hoc basis, which is why establishing it at the company is an ongoing process. To sum up, it is helpful to break down a larger change project into smaller work packages and assign these packages to the personnel responsible. Members of the team can keep each other posted at regular status meetings, thus ensuring that the change is implemented successfully and in a structured manner.