How to lead change

Changes Ahead

One of the most difficult things to do as a manager or business owner is to make big changes effectively. How do you bring your people  on board? Is your business ready? We take a look at what you can do to effect real change.

Single vision

It all begins with one vision. According to Jennie Godfrey, British Gas Business HR Director, the most successful change she’s led in her role was the creation of one vision and set of values for the whole of British Gas. These values are about focusing on the customer, keeping things simple and working together transparently.

The overarching goal was to improve service by working together as a single organisation. When everyone in a company knows what their shared values are, it becomes easier to work in unison towards a goal.

Making silos transparent

Jennie explains that the instigating factor for this change was ‘a need for the business to work together more effectively (as opposed to in silos)’.

You’re probably familiar with the silo effect. When teams or groups within a company work exclusively to their own goals rather than sharing a common aim, there’s a breakdown in communication (and, often, in morale).

As you can imagine, in a large company with varied specialisations (engineering, customer service, marketing), it’s easy for silos to pop up.

However, small organisations aren’t immune.

Clarity of vision is key to any company’s success, no matter your size. Silos tend to fragment this vision, encouraging people to work as ‘cogs in the machine’.

If you or your team are working this way, you’re not being efficient. More importantly, this inefficiency is probably costing you in terms of customer relationships.

Involve or fail

An Econsultancy report on multi-channel customer experience reveals that 28% of companies say there is ownership of the customer experience at board level, but no dedication across other teams. While 41% believe that organisational complexity (hierarchical silos) hamper efforts to create a better customer experience.

In line with these findings, Jennie  points out that the key to effecting real business change is ‘the support of key leaders across the business who could speak positively about the benefits of sharing a common set of values’.

People must engage

For a small company, think about the way you present yourself to suppliers, contractors and potential customers. They need to see your values in the way you engage with them. ‘Engagement in the change was as important as making the change itself,’ Jennie points out.

In fact, if she’d been able to do something differently it would have been to give teams more time so they could have engaged more broadly.

After all, it’s not easy to accept change. Colleagues and employees may resist ‘because they feel threatened and exposed, and often see change as a criticism’, says Jennie. That’s natural, as change implies the way things have worked up till now is no longer good enough.

Keep communications open

‘There’s only one way [to assess if your business is ready to change]: talking to people’, she adds. If you, the business owner, want to break down silos (or at least make them transparent), you need to make the first step.

While we can never control every element of the change process, it is possible to manage change.

The secret ingredients

‘Teach your people to be resilient and flexible,’ Godfrey advises. ‘That way ANY change can be dealt with’.

‘The three characteristics that businesspeople need if they want to succeed are resilience, flexibility and vision.’

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