Communication is the most vital factor in delivering change successfully

Why is change management important?

Recent volatile economic conditions have meant businesses have had to adapt their strategies in order to survive, which can mean significant change. In a downturn, the businesses hit hardest are those not willing or able to adapt. In order to survive, firms have had to modify and in some cases completely review their business strategy.

Successful change management begins with recognising the need for change, ensuring the direction of change is in line with emerging market trends and being willing to let go of what used to work in the past. Cries of “But this is the way we have always done it!” will not help the business survive, let alone grow.

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What areas of change management should be focused on?

Once the direction of change has been agreed, the key to successful change management is to act quickly. The change in strategy needs to be decisive, ensuring the impact on the entire business is well understood. Staff need to understand why the change is required, what is going to happen, how that is going to be phased in and to what timescales. If the business takes too long to agree organisational changes and hence prolonging uncertainty in job security then many of the best staff will leave.

Strong delivery management is essential, especially when change involves complex technological improvements or has a significant impact on the business operating model. Robust management throughout the end-to-end delivery from study, design, build and test to implementation is a must. Without solid programme management there is a risk of gaps in the study and design, overall delivery could be delayed or there could be material compromises on quality, not to mention delivering to budget.

That said, the single most important factor to delivering change successfully is communication. A clear and consistent communication strategy should begin by identifying the impacted and interested audience groups and then tailoring the timing and content of the message to each target group. Poor communications will lead to mistrust and lack of cohesion in delivery, whereas strong communication should help enforce the change to be incorporated quickly and effectively.

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Some C-level execs want to focus on strategy and don’t believe they are responsible for execution. Are they?

There are C-level executives who are extremely successful with a pure strategy focus, however their success is dependent on the wider team being able to interpret and execute their ideas. Successful businesses ensure they have a team of C-level executives with complementary skills, from idea generation through to execution and management insight. All successful executives know their areas of expertise and play to their strengths. They know successful delivery hinges on a good management team. C-level executive sponsors of change are absolutely accountable for delivery, though not directly responsible for execution. Their focus should be ensuring there is sufficient challenge on the design, costs and quality of delivery and steer the work in a decisive and timely manner.

Heidi Kharbhih is a management consultant at Optimise Your Business
0845 519 3940
www.optimiseyourbusiness.com