How to make a change go over smoothly
The only thing that seems to be constant in the business world is change. Business must constantly adapt in order to survive and take advantage of opportunities for growth. Computer systems become obsolete after only a few years, new employees are hired, new stores are opened as unprofitable ones are closed, and new equipment is purchased and so on. These changes to the business, if not handled wisely, can cause unnecessary stress on employees and customers and be detrimental to the company's bottom line.
How can you minimize the impact a change will have to the business, the workers, and the customers? Here are eight suggestions:
- Minimize the number of changes. Only make necessary and profitable changes. Every change you make is an investment. Make sure that the investment is worth while. Everyone loves to buy a new car. Sometimes in business, changes can be like a new car. But making a change that doesn't need to be made just because it is neat or new is a costly luxury that will take away from the bottom line. As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
- Involve and receive input from experts at all levels of the company or business. Don't assume that someone who doesn't get paid as much as an executive doesn't have valid opinions and observations. Those closest to the situation to be changed are the ones who have the most experience and insight. The executives' job is to gather the data from employees and customers in order to make an accurate decision.
- Do an impact analysis. Every change creates a domino effect. Before you start yanking this and installing that, you need to do the best analysis possible to determine what kinds of things can go wrong. Finding this out after the change has already been made could be more costly than you anticipated. Involve anyone and everyone who could be affected by this change. Take your time and be thorough. It is worth taking a little extra time to make sure you are on solid ground rather than ending up with egg on your face because you didn't think things through.
- Manage the project well. There are many methods that can be used to manage a project. There are two main things that should happen when a project is managed: there should be a master list of the tasks to be completed (along with who will be working on those tasks), and target dates or deadlines. The target dates can be flexible. Deadlines are not as flexible as target dates, and should be determined by a real date driven event. For example, John Doe is leaving the company by the end of the month, or the lease on this building will be up by the end of the year. A critical path can then be established, and the tasks prioritized.
- Communicate the changes to all concerned. Keep all employees, supervisors, managers, suppliers and customers aware of the change well ahead of time. Give them progress reports and expectations as to when the changes will occur. It is not necessary to give too much detail. Too much information is annoying. However, it is also annoying to be blind sided by sudden unforeseen changes.
- Make the transition as smooth as possible from the old to the new for employees, and especially for customers. For example, if you are making drastic changes to the company website, make the learning curve as smooth as possible, and allow the users to access the older version for a while if you are changing to a brand new site.
- Test computer and equipment changes as completely as is reasonable to reduce the number of unforeseen problems.
- Have plenty of staff available after the change is made to respond to problems caused by the change. All the planning and testing in the world can't prepare you for the real thing. Expect the unexpected and don't just assume that everything will work without problems.