Despite the business and training landscape being awash with courses to teach people the principles of change management, it’s a process some people can struggle with.
“Change management is the ability for a company to land any type of change within an organisation – looking after its people, its processes and its technology,” says Tracey Petrie, a change-management expert and managing director at White Cloud Recruitment. The main principles of change management, according to Petrie, are “to support, equip and make people adopt and understand what’s happening”.
Change management is defined as methods by which a company describes and implements change for both its internal and external processes. The four key principles are:
- understand change;
- plan change;
- implement change;
- communicate change.
Petrie’s role is to place change managers in businesses that may need some assistance, whether the scale of the upheaval is large or small.
“A change manager is someone who puts the business people or even the customers first, and looks at it from their point of view,” explains Petrie.
“They are asking why things are changing, what the benefits are and how they can land the change with minimal fuss and risk, and to work with the leaders to all have the same story. What you want is an organisation to have all its leaders singing from the same hymn book around why things are changing.”
The leadership style required when business heads are implementing change – whether with or without the help of a change manager – varies from place to place, Petrie adds.
“It’s a tricky area, especially if you’ve got a leader who is, ‘It’s my way or the highway’,” she says. “I think that type of leadership is dying out though, particularly after COVID-19. I think people have realised there’s more to life outside of work and there’s more choice, so people are gravitating towards workplaces and environments where the boss leads by example, but also lets them have that flexibility.
“One thing that is going to work for any kind of organisational change or any type of transformation of the business though, is strong sponsorship and consistent, positive communication.”
Change management help
For any small-to-medium enterprise contemplating a change – whether it be in technology, processes or people – Petrie recommends hopping on the phone to do some homework first.
“The first step is to ring up an organisation that is an expert in the area,” she says. “That may be project management, because if you’re a small company you may not have a project manager or run projects yourselves. So maybe talk to a firm that’s got a project management specialty, or change management specialty, and explain what the situation is. You may be told that you just need a comms person, or that you could probably utilise the people in-house because it’s not a complex change.
“A lot of small accounting firms might be putting in new software like MYOB and, if there’s only a small number of staff, you won’t be needing a change manager five days a week. You may only need someone in there twice a week for a couple of months. It really does depend on the size and complexity of whatever change is occurring.”