Change management is a natural part of running any organization, and most companies will undergo a major transition or adoption at some point. While some plan ahead for this reality, others realize they need this function when a crisis requires a rapid response. Building the necessary skills ahead of time can pay dividends, particularly in such emergencies.
What Is Change Management?
Change management is a methodical approach for implementing new procedures, reforms, hierarchies, and strategies. Any organizational change requires an effective change management process, which itself relies on a wide range of skills. These skills are applied to ensure that employees at all levels understand why change is occurring, how it will impact their work, and what their role will be during and after the change.
Why Is Change Management Important?
There are many triggers that can drive a company towards change. Some are smaller or incremental, such as adding a new payment method on an e-commerce site or adding a chatbot to the company website to help reduce customer support or prospect inquiries. Some are larger and impact the whole organization, or at least a major part. In the last century, the biggest change has been the integration of computers into business and the shift away from paper records to electronic records, for example. Each change, or trigger for change, represents a shift in the way the organization works, and therefore requires the ability to drive the successful adoption of the change by all employees. A successful change management plan depends on employees committing to the change and learning how to adapt to the new shift. Some common examples of organizational change include:
- New technologies
- Competitive threats
- A culture of constant improvement
- New products
- Significant failures
- Updated strategies
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Managerial turnover
Businesses must take the appropriate steps–backed by the right change management skills–for the desired adaptations to be successful.
Today’s pace of new technologies and opportunities is occurring faster than ever before; change seems to be inevitable for any company that wants to survive. And that means being proactive in closing the skill gaps related to change management.
Which Skills Are Needed for Change Management?
When identifying the relevant skills, it can be helpful to consider the stages of organizational adaptation. Some skill sets (such as communication, for example) can be useful at various stages.
Typically, an organization will decide to make a significant shift when it recognizes that a problem and/or an opportunity are pending. The ability to see the need for change is a result, in part, of critical thinking. A critical thinker will see how the organization’s current path is not optimal and move to improve it. Preempting the types of problems that lead to forced change management is a function of organizational development.
The next phase of business revision is planning. At this point, a skill such as problem solving is essential. In small organizations, problem solving might be the task of the CEO, who needs to rely on creativity and analytical thinking to derive a set of potential solutions. In larger companies, problem solving tends to be a group effort, depending on brainstorming and teamwork activities that generate ideas for solving a crisis or seizing an advantage.
Once a course of action is decided, it is vital for stakeholders, particularly employees, to understand the upcoming changes. But this is not a one-way flow of data. Obviously, management will inform workers about new tasks that must be performed. But it is also true that employees should be given opportunities to contribute. They will be in a position to know if top-down orders are practical, and if not, what steps can be taken instead. Communication skills are essential for employees at all levels to discuss the feasibility of important organizational shifts.
There are many skills related to this stage, and they depend on the nature of the shift. For example, implementing a technology might require training in a new programming language, while participating in a merger could demand wholesale layoffs, new production lines, a different marketing strategy, and so on. At the very least, implementation requires many of the skills that come under the umbrella of teamwork:
- Time management
- Creative thinking
- Critical thinking
Time to Change to GrowthSpace
The extent to which change management will be successful is determined in large part by the level of proficiency in related skills. Too often, companies neglect these skills until they reach the point of dilemma.
That’s why so many major organizations are turning to GrowthSpace. They are discovering how GrowthSpace’s learning and development platform identifies skill gaps and connects them with top experts to provide the most effective, customized L&D programs. In this way, organizations can be prepared for unavoidable and drastic shifts in operations and strategy.