This article was updated on August 29, 2018.
To succeed, organizations often have to change. The type and degree of change varies, but a fundamental truth remains — businesses that stagnate can quickly sink under the weight of competitive pressure. Even with concerted reform efforts, some organizations aren't able to translate the desire for change into meaningful action.
Forbes reports that when it comes to implementing change within a company, many firms win small battles but ultimately lose the war. Part of the problem stems from difficulty implementing change up front — communicating new expectations to employees, preparing infrastructure and clearing away legacy obstacles.
So why is it so difficult to keep long-term change alive?
It could be related to change fatigue. If your organization puts continual pressure on employees to make multiple transitions at once, it can wear on employees and managers alike. Additionally, if you don't give your employees the skills and information they need to understand why the change is necessary, it will be difficult to sustain change over time.
Initial issues often give way to longer-term difficulties, so organizations need to find ways to engage their employees and make them feel like vested partners in the transformation.
Here are five tips for implementing change within a company.
1. Grab Low-Hanging Fruit
In order to keep change intact over the long term, you should start by addressing the most obvious problems with your existing operational model. For a manufacturing business, this might mean addressing supply or overstock issues, while health care firms might focus on securely outsourcing information technology (IT) functions.
2. Define Your Goals
You have to know exactly what you expect to gain from any change. Before spending on new infrastructure or re-training employees, decide if you're improving current processes, changing operational models or redesigning your business from the ground up. This puts everyone on the same page and speaks to the amount of organizational support needed. The more you change, the more time you need to spend actively backing the new model.
3. Cultivate Technology
One of the biggest differences between businesses that experience success implementing change within a company and those that don't can be adoption of technology. Organizational change often means you need to adapt existing systems. Consider looking to an expansion of cloud services — or even replacing existing tools with cloud solutions to make the transition as smooth and simple as possible for all involved.
4. Skip Strategy (Sometimes)
Strategic change is often seen as the most valuable since it has the potential to transform business operations. But CIO reports that nonstrategic transformations also offer significant benefits because they address local issues and may be urgently needed. While these projects don't offer the same kind of ROI as flashy strategic efforts, they can pay off in the long run because they require less top-down oversight. Often employees have been asking for these changes over a period of months or years, making them effectively self-supporting over time.
5. Be Adaptable
Nine months or a year out from initial change, business needs and the cultural landscape may be much different. As a result, your support for change may need to adjust and adapt. For example, many businesses are now investing in IT management solutions to take the burden off local tech professionals. If everything goes to plan, you may find IT staff eager for more outsourced help. Here, expanding the scope of the original change often makes sense to tap emerging employee sentiment.
Business change delivers an edge in corporate competition but isn't always easy to maintain. By understanding common failure points and implementing transformation with best practices, you can ensure any organization evolution has the best shot at long-term viability.