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With economic confidence continuing to improve, there is a growing appetite within businesses to push forward change projects.

A recent survey found that two thirds of organisations have already put business change programmes in motion and the other third intend to follow suit in the near future.
If businesses wish to experience long-term success, their change projects have to be sustainable. Projects that commence without a clear plan are immediately under threat from a range of factors.

The first step is to devote significant time and care when outlining the project’s expectations. Goals and objectives should be achievable otherwise the project can become overly costly, take up considerable resources and grind to a halt. If the plan seems too complicated, then it probably is.

Planning for the future

Any case for change must match a business’ long-term aspirations. Start with the basics. Align the company’s current identity and position it against future market and staff expectations. This ensures a targeted approach that helps maintain progress.
Next engage with key stakeholders. This is a critical step for guaranteeing the smooth running of a project. Consider creating a supplementary communications plan for external stakeholders like customers, partners and suppliers. This will allow easier two-way discussions around influential issues.

Pay careful attention to each group’s needs. Everyone involved has a voice and their feedback should be taken on board. They should feel as though they have a purpose and role to play.

Middle management and front line employees are just as important as the C-Suite. Change affects everyone. Pre-planned workshops and regular meetings are effective at managing expectations, so implement a suitable support structure to communicate when progress has been made. 

Talking the talk 

Following that, clearly outline who should be tracking and measuring each goal as the project progresses. If a key milestone cannot be met on time, it is important a system is in place to alert the Project Team Leader immediately. This will prevent disruption while regular status updates ensure an effective early warning system.

Good practice also includes arranging a Change Control Process. By adding formality to plan amendments, the transformation team can adapt project aspects in a manner that displays progress to the rest of the business. Not only does this improve the quality of eventual changes, but it also gives staff the knowledge that suggestions are being taken seriously. 

Risk assessment is equally crucial. Identify every possible risk and classify it according to its impact and likelihood. If possible, implement preventative means for pre-emptive risks, but always be prepared for unplanned developments that could escalate quickly. Caution and planning is the best tool for avoiding risk-related complications. 

Walking the walk 

Before leaping headfirst into a change programme’s launch, the final step should be a business readiness plan. This evaluates whether stakeholders are ready for the transformation and whether the company will be able to sustain the changes. Do not forget to take into account any post-launch risks that were previously highlighted.
Once change begins to take effect, stop a potential drop in motivation and employee fatigue with regular engagement. Objectives need to be sustainable, not high impact without longevity. Regularly reviewing staff on how they are finding the new changes will show which individuals require supplementary training and other supportive measures.

Regular analysis quantifies the changes and assists with future projects / programmes. If the planning has been executed correctly and a foundation for maintaining the change put in place, the business will witness a range of benefits that transform it for the better. 

Esther McMorris, founder and director of Nine Feet Tall, experts in business transformation and leaders in delivering positive change.

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