A few weeks ago, I started talking about businesses, particularly small businesses, which find themselves at an inflection point in their history. What used to work, no longer works and the organization enters a period of stagnation. Delegation and governance (see Leave the Plateau Behind) as well as an honest assessment of management skill sets are necessary components to jump start growth.
A Shock to the System
These changes are essential for growth but are often at odds with the company’s prevailing culture. Delegation, governance and strategic management skills require accountability at every level of the organization. In companies where the entrepreneurial spirit alone drove business decisions, accountability may have rested with one or two individuals. Changing this paradigm can be a huge cultural shock.
What to do? The same organizational change management principles apply regardless if the cause of change is implementing a new technology or implementing new management practices. The key is moving ownership of the new way of doing things from the vision to the individual. This takes transition planning and a dose of patience.
Too often cultural changes of this magnitude fail because of lack of patience and follow-through. The key components supporting change are:
- Communicate – tie the vision and the objectives to the benefits
- Train – build confidence in the individual’s abilities
- Support – provide conduit for questions
- Reinforce – share success stories, measure progress and re-train
Change initiatives that fail tend to do an adequate job on the first three but neglect to reinforce the new practices. Without reinforcement, even people with enthusiasm for the change may slip back to the “old ways” after only a few weeks.
Growth requires different approaches than the prevailing status quo. Implementing strategic planning coupled with accountability are cultural changes for many smaller businesses. Learning how to lead change through transition planning is key for organizational leaders.