Merging Change Management With Corporate Strategy

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Change is a huge part of life. Both individuals and businesses need to adapt to take on new challenges and take hold of opportunities to thrive. It is not enough to simply weather whatever happens without thinking about long-term strategic goals or a business’s ability to achieve them. In the dynamic Digital Age, it is all too easy to get left behind.

Because of this, active and structured ‘change management’ can play a huge part in the way organizations strategize and evolve. Reviewing an organization’s capabilities in relation to long-term aims can highlight targets for transformation, whether in terms of management styles, funding, departmental capabilities, or anything else. Change management is, in the simplest terms, the act of preparing a business to pursue its corporate strategy.

However, taking an active approach to managing change can be an alien concept for some. It is not uncommon for businesses to simply push strategic changes through from the top-down, treating potential consequences as an inevitability rather than something that can be dealt with in advance. Worse yet, many stakeholders fail to realize that, by not factoring in change management, they are limiting the benefits of the goals they are pursuing, as well as leaving themselves ill-equipped for future strategic initiatives.

‘APMG Change Management’ is a best-practice framework developed by APMG International in partnership with the Change Management Institute. Based on insight from highly experienced experts, it delivers a comprehensive yet flexible approach that can be continually applied and refined in any organization. In short, not only does it help businesses optimize the role of change management within their corporate strategies, but it also establishes best practices that lead to permanent improvements.

So, what do businesses need to keep in mind to successfully incorporate change management into strategic initiatives? Here are our top tips!

Prepare for Pushback

Changing the status quo in an organization is bound to lead to a variety of reactions. Individuals may be wary of changes to familiar processes, especially if proposed ‘improvements’ have the potential to impact their jobs. At the same time, executives or stakeholders may worry about how transformational changes will affect their own priorities, which may well differ from those of the company as a whole.

Even if nobody has a vested interest in the status quo, as long as the status quo works, changes will still need to be justified.

The key to bringing change management into this process is being proactive. After defining and outlining what changes are to take place, consider who will be affected by them. This applies both positively and negatively, in the sense that even if purported changes seem positively rosy on paper, there may still be opposing yet constructive perspectives that will be worth taking into account.

It also goes without saying that one should never make the mistake of thinking that all information and reasoning behind strategic changes are self-evident. Stakeholders may be happy focusing on brass tacks, but employees will need reassurance about day-to-day activities and the safety of their jobs.

Applying change management to strategy in this way allows businesses to minimize resistance before an initiative even gets underway. This leaves them better able to pursue and achieve goals, as well as helping to drive adoption of changes and optimize the resulting benefits.

Decentralized Implementation

Simply trying to force changes from the top down is a great way to disrupt your business. For employees to be confident in the benefits and direction of a transformation initiative, visible leadership and effective communication are total necessities. With a lack of direction, employees will be far more likely to resent or resist strategic initiatives.

With this in mind, it is important to give stakeholders and executives more visibility. They can play a huge role in selling the changes, creating a higher level of trust for employees at different levels. This can also be an opportunity for them to answer questions for any concerned members of staff, as well as receive valuable feedback and insight.

A large part of this will also involve focusing on managers and team leaders. With more knowledge of ground-level processes and feelings, they will be better placed to make sure changes can be implemented effectively and report on potential issues early on. By giving them more of a personal stake in the course of the strategic initiative, you will also enhance their morale.

Change Management Training

For some managers and stakeholders, treating change management as a project in itself can be an unfamiliar experience. In these instances, investing in training for frameworks such as APMG Change Management is an excellent solution. A best practice framework can offer comprehensive yet flexible tools for ironing out, planning, and implementing changes, as well as collaborating with other teams and departments to facilitate the process.

This last point is particularly relevant for APMG Change Management. The framework is ideal for organization-wide strategy, as practitioners have shared knowledge of terminology and processes that colleagues will be employing. This drives collaboration, making transformation initiatives far more effective and efficient, not only for immediate strategic changes but also for future programs.

It is also worth noting that change management itself is becoming a far more valuable skill. With this in mind, offering change management training can be highly appealing for managers and executives. Not only will it help them further their own careers, but it also demonstrates a commitment to developing your most important employees. As long as you keep them happy, you will have a far easier time implementing strategic change.

Be Prepared to Compromise

When advocating strategic change, you may find that the purported benefits, even once fully clarified, are not enough to satisfy each of the parties involved. Stakeholders or managers may disagree about the viability of your plan, or they may even feel that their own priorities need more prominence. Stakeholders, in particular, may require a degree of leeway, or they could quickly become the biggest roadblocks for your strategy.

This is another example where simply trying to force changes through is extremely counterproductive. Such behavior can quickly alienate skilled and qualified staff (especially as it sets a negative precedent for future transformation initiatives).

This also applies to teams and departments. With the interconnected nature of your average business, you may find that strategic changes cause unexpected ripples. For example, amendments in IT can also have an impact on teams supported by IT. In such a situation, it could be pertinent to limit or slow the pace of proposed changes in order to ease the transition.

A willingness to compromise on the contents or timeline of your strategy can be essential for effective change management. That is not to say that you should not be willing to prioritize key goals, though you may well find that discussing and amending certain elements will leave you with far more workable and beneficial solutions.

Engage With Stakeholders

As you begin adopting best practices for change management, you will find that they will factor heavily into strategic pitches. By outlining the amendments required to achieve strategic goals, you will provide stakeholders and decision-makers with a greater level of clarity that will make them more likely to lend their support.

Factors like potential resistance, training costs, and so on can all be framed within a brass-tacks context that links directly to strategic considerations. You will also be expected to continue providing updates as the changes progress, informing stakeholders of amendments and new considerations while also working to maintain their support.

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