With well-organized and individually designed change management, companies can eradicate deep-seated problems and actively shape the future through targeted change. Dr. Dirk Bayas-Linke, expert for change management and organizational development and Partner at Staufen AG, explains what is important to ensure effective change brought about by management.
Adaptability as a strength
It becomes apparent how adaptable companies are within the context of change management: Can they react quickly to a change in markets and competition? Are they capable of realignment when it becomes necessary? It is important to take stock at the start: What problems are there, what issues are cause for concern? Ultimately, it is not about changing as much as possible in the company. It is important to pick out problematic issues and at the same time note what is going well in the current organization and should be maintained.
Face reality: naming problems and causes
In many companies, the problems and their causes have been evident for a long time, but a closer look often reveals discrepancies in perception: While senior management sees certain reasons for the problems, middle management suspects the causes lie elsewhere.
In developing strategies for positive change, it is essential that all members of management have a common understanding of the problem. Accordingly, it is often important at first to discuss the problems and also the reasons for them in great detail. Once this point has been completely clarified, goals can be set.
No change without energy
In the company, a great amount of energy is used to organize daily work routines and keep them running. This must also be done in change management: It is not possible to stop production or work in the company until all changes have been completed. Moreover, many changes are only possible within the ongoing process. Therefore, it is important to divide the energy between different tasks appropriately. There are three types of energy that make change possible:
• Energy for finding the problem: What do we want to get away from?
• Energy for setting goals: Where do we want head towards?
• Energy for clarifying the path: What do we need to change, what do we need to maintain?
Continuously tracking the implementation of change management while maintaining day-to-day operations is a balancing act. It must be carefully monitored.
No energy without understanding
Putting forth extra energy for change requires full understanding of the need for change. A company in which employees and management do not understand changing strategies is not capable of change. It is also not enough to have a cognitive understanding – those affected must also emotionally understand why the change is necessary. Once understood, change management can be carried out successfully.
Change management has different approaches
Experts in change management identify different archetypes among their clients. These indicate where the managers of the company they are advising are with regards to the understanding process. Since this status is quite different for all companies, it must generally be determined. This is followed by the discussion phase, in which all participants jointly work out a common position.
Set concrete goals with time constraints
The organization of change needs concrete goals: Determine which improvement in which areas should be achieved within a certain period of time. Since change does not happen overnight, it often involves periods of several years. These goals should be chosen in such a way that they can be realistically achieved as work continues and can be sustained in the future.
Change affects various areas
Depending on the problems identified at the beginning of change management during the discussion round, change must take place in different areas. This can affect the organization of processes, individuals, but also teams. In the latter case, the task of bringing about effective change is by far the most exciting.
Increase team effectiveness
In some companies, the first question to be resolved is whether employees work together in groups or in teams. In groups, they can work side by side, whereas in a team, everyone must rely on each other and share responsibility for the results. A dysfunctional team is a significant problem in a company. Transforming such a team into a high-performance team is the task of change management.
The focus is on increasing the effectiveness of the team. In a dysfunctional team, employees are often dissatisfied and want change. However, increasing employee satisfaction should not be the primary goal. This happens by itself when a team works effectively and employees are proud of their performance.
Communication is key
At the beginning of change management, it is often necessary to slow things down: Entrepreneurs who commission experts to provide consulting services often prefer to initiate important processes immediately. However, the second step must follow the first, so the start of consulting often seems slow to many entrepreneurs at first.
As soon as disagreements between the various levels of management become apparent as to what the problems are or what is causing them, the reason for the slow approach becomes clear: The processes that the company needs to change must be carefully planned and coordinated with everyone involved.
Regardless of whether the change is entirely practical or more cultural in nature, it is essential that all decisions and the ways in which decisions are made within the company are carefully communicated. A successful communication strategy and extensive interaction are important to ensure that employees understand and are ready for change at a behavioral or mindset level. It is normal for people to strive for situational certainty. Making them understand that this requires change is one of the most important tasks of change management.
Change management requires careful planning
If structures have become ingrained in companies that cause problems, change management can provide a remedy. After carefully identifying problems and setting goals, appropriate processes must be put in place. Several points are particularly important for this: Implementation must take place simultaneously to day-to-day operations, and all employees must support the change. For this, a sophisticated communication concept is just as important as in-depth interaction in the daily routine.
Lara Schlegel, Head of Human Resources, STAUFEN.AG
Dr. Dirk Bayas-Linke, Principal, STAUFEN.AG