Throughout the lifecycle of your startup, change will be necessary at many points. Implementing innovations, changing company culture, and management methods require that change occur, and it will be vital to maintaining your edge. Before change can be implemented, your startup has to be prepared for it. Preparing adequately for change will ensure that the transition is smoother and more likely to stick. Here are seven key ways to get your company and employees primed for change.
1. Build Motivation for Change
Making the need for change clear is not always easy, particularly if it’s large scale change with lasting impact. Create motivation by emphasizing the end goal and encouraging employees to see change in a positive light. Start creating motivation right away so that changes will not come as a surprise.
2. Encourage Feedback
Establish channels for your employees to give open and consistent feedback. In order to adapt to change, people have to feel as though they have some agency. Encouraging honest feedback and listening to employee ideas and concerns will not only ensure that they feel as though they have control over the process, but may also allow you to discover better methods for implementing change. Your workforce is doubtless full of bright, motivated people. Providing means for feedback will allow you to use those skills.
3. Build Collaborative Teams
Creating an environment that encourages collaboration ensures that employees work together. Done properly, collaboration means that employees will learn from each other and encourage the sharing of innovative ideas. Collaboration should embrace diversity of thought and will eventually encourage improved critical and strategic thinking.
4. Learn From Previous Initiatives
It’s important to know what occurred during the implementation of previous initiatives. Find out what worked, what didn’t and what problems arose. Having access to this knowledge will help you map out an effective plan for your current project. Identifying people who might help or hinder your project is also part of learning from past initiatives.
5. Create a Roadmap for Change
Implementing change with no plan in place is almost guaranteed to end in disaster. Identify not only the end goal, but also the process of change. Ask yourself the following: Who will be affected? What departments will change? What practices will have to change? Once you have answers to these questions you can implement initiatives to ease the change process. Gartner explains that “If the delivery of the change process does not include a clear understanding of the implementation mechanism, a communications plan, a marketing effort, incentives for change and a project focus, then the effort is likely to fail”.
6. Ensure that Networks of Communication and Support are Strong
Communication is key to ensuring that change occurs smoothly. Gartner analysts explain that “It is human nature to shift this discomfort to the new system, assuming that it is inhibiting their job, rather than recognizing the elimination of problems they had with the old system. Since most users won’t be actively reminding themselves of the improvements they get with the new system, someone else needs to make the improvements visible”. Building and maintaining an effective communications network allows people to be aware of what is going on and to participate more in the process should they want to. Support networks are similarly important as they allow managers and employees access to the tools they need to attain and maintain their equilibrium through the change process.
7. Set Smaller, Realistic Goals and Provide Incentives
Part of preparing for change is the setting of goals and outcomes, however if the goals you’ve set aren’t realistic, they will never be achieved. Use feedback and your own skill set to set reasonable goals. It’s also important to provide your team with incentives. Providing incentives gives people an impetus to reach goals and allows them to acknowledge when goals are reached. When planning for change, treat it as an incremental process. Doing so ensures that it won’t be quite so daunting.
In a time when change is necessary, it’s important to have the structures, skills, people, and tools in place to ensure that change is smooth and approached with enthusiasm. A little trepidation is inevitable as you venture into the unknown, but being prepared for it will ensure that this trepidation doesn’t give way to fear and hesitation.