My favorite W. Edwards Deming quote is “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” If you work in an entrepreneurial business like I do, then you know that change is a constant. Some changes are big, like adding a new service offering. Some are small, like leveraging an existing technology to streamline a process. However, in my experience, no matter how big or small the change, the resistance level is constant.

If you struggle with change management in your organization, I am here to help. Below are 4 keys to creating a successful and lasting change within your business.

Alignment | For change to be accepted AND implemented it must be congruent with your stakeholders’ experience of your organization. If you specialize in baking brownies, it would be a little alarming if you decided to start offering investment management services.

Change, big or small, must be anchored in an organization’s purpose, passion, vision and culture. Before starting a major change initiative, be 100% sure that your stakeholders are clear on the organization’s core fundamentals. If they aren’t, the first step is education and communication.

Timed Transparency | There are those of us who thrive on change and the process of creating change. There are others who will dig their heels in and resist even when it is clear the change will be beneficial. It’s all about fear, and fear mitigation. Draw on those within your organization who are change makers to help you craft the vision and navigate all the options. Once you have narrowed your scope and have some clarity, slowly reveal the ideas to those who may be more resistant. Fear of change comes from a fear of the unknown. Too many possibilities and things feel uncertain, but not having enough information and/or control is just as detrimental to your change initiative. So, long story short, be as transparent as possible, but make sure the timing is right.

Stakeholder Input | Entrepreneurs & others in positions of leadership have a tendency to think they know best and want to move very fast. I’m guilty of this myself from time to time. However, the best things happen to us and our organizations when we invite others to be a part of the process.

If you have a large group of stakeholders, I would suggest trying Open Space Technology. Open Space is a way to enable all kinds of people to create inspired organizations, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with regularity. We just used this process at the Impact 100 Cincinnati annual board retreat and I was astounded by the ideas that sprang forth.

Measurement | To know that any initiative has been successful we have to set goals and track our progress toward those goals. The concept is simple, but execution, not so much. When deciding on a measurement system remember 3 things:

  1. Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler (Thanks Mr. Einstein)
    1. Keep iterating if you need to. We rarely get things right on the first try. Just keep asking why, and eventually you’ll find what’s right.
  1. Make it personal
    1. A friend of mine is implementing a volunteer program within her organization. It’s time consuming and in the early stages. Her coworkers aren’t yet fully onboard. I asked her what she was reporting to them. She noted increase in number of volunteers, increase in volunteers’ hours, & increase in volunteer acumen. While all of these numbers are great, they aren’t personal to the staff. So, I suggested just reporting number of FTE (full-time equivalent) employees created by volunteer hours. And, light bulb. It was personal, and the rest of the team got excited.
  1. Report Regularly
    1. It may not be as simple as possible, and it may not be as personal as you would like it to be, but if you report to your stakeholders regularly they will forgive a lot of sins. Just like communication is key to get a change initiative off the ground, it is imperative to the continued implementation and adoption as well. You can read more about reporting rhythms in Mackey’s blog from February 2018.

If the choice is change or die, the choice is clear. Hopefully these 4 tools will help ease the pain of your next change management project. Thanks for reading!