Managing Change in a Small Business

Managing Change in a Small Business

Until I set up a small business, my experience of managing change had been within large public sector organisations where it often felt like a massive task to work through, planning and implementing best practice and nurturing the right kind of response and flexibility to bring about transformation.

Now, leading a small organisation, I can see how much better they are to react and adapt to the need for change and provided, as the head of the business, I play to my own strengths and those of my team, change can happen quickly and with success.

There are a number of practices I’ve found that really help me to make changes within the business.

Let everyone have the chance to input

At the start of the change process, for me it works really well to open up a discussion with the team about how we can best make the change.  Some may have little to say on the issue whilst others jump at the opportunity to share their innovation.  Either way the size of the organisation brings advantage here.  It doesn’t mean that I am handing over authority and decision-making; the team know that these still rest with me at the end of the day, but it does mean that everyone feels they have had the chance to contribute and to own the change and so become more committed to it.

Cultivate ‘can do’ behaviours

Although there are times when I have to ask not to be interrupted, I do spend a lot of time interacting with the team, formally and informally.   Doing so shows them that I listen and that I am approachable and trustworthy.  I also encourage the team to communicate and interact with each other, to be good colleagues, team players and to ‘muck in.’

In return I’ve built a team and an organisation with flexibility and a ‘can do’ attitude so that when we need to bring about change, the team feel that they ‘can do’ what is being asked of them and take a more optimistic view.

As with any team there can be those who are more positive in their outlook than others and I challenge those with a ‘half empty’ view on life to use this tendency as a strength; to highlight the things that might not work or might go wrong within the change process, but to balance this with thinking about and offering the solutions.

Keep it simple

Once the change is scoped out and planned, the implementation stage needs to be as simple and quick as possible.  My aim here is always to minimise uncertainty within the team so that people stay engaged and quickly see and feel the tangible differences. 

To do this, I look for the simplest route to implementation with the least amount of disruption and clear measures of progress and success.  I also look for quick wins so that people see the outcome of their efforts at an early stage. This way, the change is much easier to co-ordinate and drive forward, and the less time there is for concerns to linger and for people to hang onto previous ways of doing things. 

Make it sustainable

Once the change is implemented it is tempting to sit back, breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next project.  It’s so important though to keep checking back and keep an eye on the change for some time after implementation to make sure it doesn’t unwind and that the outcomes continue to work and stay in place.

With my team I do this by making sure that the measures we set for each change initiative are reasonably long term and continue to be reported on.  Again, we keep this simple by using team meeting agendas and other communication channels that already exist until we are certain that the change is fully embedded.

Once again it becomes equally important here to open up discussion and engage in informal communication, to enable me to check out whether things are working as they should be.

The points I’ve made outline just a few of the things that help me to implement change successfully in a small business and the lessons I would take with me into a larger organisation to tackle the barriers I needed to overcome in order to move change forward.

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