Companies are constantly changing – there will always be a need for new or improved processes, people and technology. But it’s how a company changes that will often define its success, and far too often I see poor change processes driven by (mostly) SME company owners that introduce risk and waste money, and sometimes lots of money! What amazes me though is that most of these owners driving the change wouldn’t do it the same way if they were engaged to lead the change in someone else’s company – they’d be fired for poor process! But why don’t they do what is in the best interests of their own company, when profitability equals dollars in their own pocket? Is change really that hard? When you break down the end to end process, it’s generally quite simple, and looks something like this:
How Change Should Work:
- Identify the business issue or opportunity.
- Objectively decide whether the change is a worthwhile exercise.
- If it is, work out detailed requirements that the change must meet.
- Find options to meet the requirements.
- Evaluate the options against requirements to select the solution.
- Implement (install, test, refine, train, use).
How Change Often Works
There’s no rocket science in there and you’d think it would be a no brainer, but the reality of the situation is usually quite different. Unfortunately, many owners will already have a solution in mind, won’t look at feasibility properly, will only look at high-level requirements, won’t look for other options, and will basically operate in “solution mode” from the start. As far as project management goes, that process is not going to win any awards, and basically risks the success of the project! What is project success? I’d say it means that it does what you need it to do, people can (and will) use it, and it makes your company more money than it costs. Imagine implementing something that doesn’t do what you need it to do, so your staff can’t use it as an effective tool, and it costs you more money than you make – not good. And yet I see this happening far too often!
Ooh, Look at the Bright Shiny Lights…
So again, why does this happen? Well as mentioned I generally see this in SMEs where there are fewer executives, and the CEO / Owner is calling all the shots. There usually isn’t a suitable structure in place to identify and assess change, and frankly, they can do what they like, because it’s their money. Change is exciting, you get something new to play with, and sometimes people just want that new toy really bad, and they want it now! And honestly, that’s probably the reality of the situation – some people just get too excited about getting something new, without taking the time to make sure it’s what they actually need.
The Solution Depends on Whether…
So, what do you do? Well, that depends on who’s reading this article... if you are the CEO/Owner... doing change better will probably save you money, and help you make more money, really!
The best part is that it’s not going to be difficult – just follow the 6 steps outlined earlier. You can do this by using a regular meeting to identify change items (step 1), and then delegate the remaining 5 steps to maximize the chance of project success. Your staff will feel more valued as you seek their input on the feasibility of change projects, and they’ll appreciate being involved in the process of steering the company towards its goals. If you’re still not convinced, think about this - if you don’t stop to identify your requirements, and whether that new toy meets those requirements, you might now have enough money left for your next toy!
If You Are Not the CEO / Owner You’ll need to convince the boss of a better way of doing things, and this can be a bit tricky. You don’t want to make out like you’re having a crack at the boss for doing a poor job, so try to approach it from a ‘value-add’ angle, in that regular company meetings where change can be discussed could be a great idea to ensure everyone is on the same page as the company moves forward.
A University lecturer once told me that “consistent error is irrational”. Everyone makes mistakes, but you should be able to learn from those mistakes and do things better the next time. If your company is continuing to waste money because it’s not handling change within an appropriate structure, someone’s either being irrational, or they just don’t know how to conduct change projects properly. Hopefully it’s the latter, otherwise, consider anonymously placing this article on their desk!