There is a basic principle of change management that applies to both large and small companies – some people will embrace change while others will resist it. When faced with change, small business owners have the added pressure of having limited resources which means that making good decisions about investing in change is critical. There is not much room to make poor strategic decisions when managing any small business, let alone when purposefully making a change within the company. Quite often, change management in small businesses is unsuccessful because there is a lack of communication and follow through with a change management plan, according to Robert Half, a specialized staffing firm. There are several tips that will help small businesses harness change so that they can get a competitive advantage in their market.
Tips for Managing Change in Small Businesses
The major pitfalls small businesses face when they decide to purposefully make changes in their company include: 1) not making a realistic plan (or any plan), 2) not clearly understanding the different parts of a strategy, 3) lack of communication, and 4) abandoning the change before it is complete. Listed below are tips to avoid these pitfalls.
Tip 1: A plan with a vision
It is critical that a plan of action is formed when initiating change. Creating a plan of what the change process will look like, who will be in charge of what, and what resources are being used, is arguably the single most important factor for change to be successful. When a plan is created, a clear vision is needed of what the end result should look like. It is vital that this vision is realistic and is agreed upon by all organizational leaders. Chip R. Bell, Keynote Speaker, Author and Customer-Loyalty Consultant, notes that when the growing pains of change being to happen, it is this vision of what can be that will remind leaders of the value the change will bring.
Tip 2: Defined strategy and roles
When developing a plan it’s important to know what needs to be done, how things will be done, and who is responsible for what. In addition to bringing clarity and structure into an otherwise chaotic process, a strategy helps to create accountability. Accountability is an important part of any successful change management plan. Leaders have the primary responsibility of holding all members of the company accountable for their part in the change process. Having a clear strategy with assigned tasks and benchmarks helps leaders stay on target when pressures begin to arise.
Tip 3: Communicate immediately and inclusively
Communication is essential to any successful change management plan. Communication should begin long before any change is initiated, maintained throughout the changing process, and should continue long after change has been established. The sooner and more involved employees are in the change process, the more likely the change will be successful. Open communication does not necessarily mean full disclosure of all details or constant updates of every single thing taking place. Leaders need to filter what is said (mainly critical facts), when it’s said (ideally in group settings), and how information is transferred within the organization (verbally or written).
It is also important to open lines of communication with people such as suppliers, customers, and financial institutions who will be impacted by the change but are external to the company. Leaders should be aware of the concerns and questions of all involved in the change, both directly and indirectly. Giving people a voice will go a long way in uncovering and removing blockages to change.
Tip 4: Uncover the root of issues
Don’t ignore problems – fix them, says Geoffrey Lewis of Paragon. There will be problems and issues that arise when change is initiated. Leaders need to know what is happening while the change is taking place so they can be addressed. Fixing a problem that is not actually the problem is a waste of resources. It is important that employees feel comfortable voicing problems and concerns. Employees should feel their concerns are taken seriously and without repercussion. That is how leaders uncover the reality of the issues resulting from the change.
Megan Miller is a business writer at Aepiphanni, specializing in the fields of marketing, organizational development, and entrepreneurial strategy development. She has an MBA and a Doctorate of Business with a focus on International Business from Liberty University. Megan is currently active in article publications focusing on knowledge management in small and medium-sized businesses. She researches the topics of entrepreneurial cognition, international entrepreneurship, environmental scanning and knowledge acquisition processes of business leaders.
Megan’s professional goals are to help small and medium-sized businesses become established and increase their competitive ability as a means for improving local and regional economies on a global scale. Megan has a passion for teaching and training young women to become successful in achieving their career goals. She currently works with the Wellspring Living Organization as a volunteer in their Women’s Academy to help educate women coming out of human trafficking and domestic violence lifestyles. She also enjoys traveling and experiencing other cultures with a particular affinity for Ireland and Italy.
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