As a business owner, your ability to predict change, adapt and make decisions is likely highly-evolved. However, the stability of your business often rests on those who are grounded, those who are slower to adopt change and more likely to resist major changes.

Regrettably, many change management efforts are unsuccessful for a wide range of reasons, and the success rate for transformation programs is under 40 percent. Employees are often suspicious of new technologies and methodologies, and some managers fail to provide the right support. Employees at all levels can be resistant to change as they might feel threatened if changes are not introduced properly or adequately explained. One of the biggest obstacles is ‘change fatigue.’

What Is Change Management?

Change management is, broadly, the systematic approach to embracing new technologies, processes and methodologies. It is difficult because it often requires cultural change, meaning that people need to learn new processes and ways of iterating either with the technology or each other. This can mean major changes to structures.

The Role of Leadership

Studies show that leadership is often the biggest source of resistance to change. Leaders understand the business case for change and are sometimes advocates for new technologies, but sometimes it means surrendering control or restructuring. For example, if decision-making moves to section managers and front-line workers, leaders might resist, setting a poor example to workers.

It is important that leaders set the tone for any change management initiative. If leaders do not embrace change, others often ignore new processes and your business can stagnate as a result. Your leadership style and example is an important part of actioning change, be they minor adjustments or major company overhauls.

What Leadership Can Do

To set an example others can follow, leadership should:

Deal directly with resistance.

For any real changes to be implemented, those who the change will affect should be included in discussions about improvements and new technologies. Resistance can take a serious toll on productivity and lead to other negative outcomes, such as people leaving the organization or requesting transfers. Some key questions to ask employees are:

      • What do you think about this change?
      • Do you know why these changes are taking place?
      • How do you feel about the change?
      • What do you see as your role in this change

Create a shared vision, clarity and alignment.

Consensus is critical, and leadership must articulate what the change means for the organization as well as how it helps to achieve company goals and objectives. Often, this means breaking down departments and promoting cross-functional cooperation. Clarity and alignment mean looking at the change regarding strategy, not just new technologies and processes. Without clearly communicating motivations and intentions, leaders can easily lose credibility and the confidence of employees.

Manage change at all leadership levels.

No single leader can be an effective champion for change. Successful change management requires a consistent message and action from leadership at all levels of the organization, from junior managers to the C-suite. A Stanford Business case study discovered that significant performance results within a healthcare system were only realized when leadership at different levels were involved.

Link change with specific goals.

SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based allow you to be specific about the change and articulate why it’s necessary. This also helps you to measure and monitor progress. If your whole team understands that change can only be achieved together, and they understand the targets in the SMART framework, you are more likely to see it implemented with little resistance and positive attempts to adopt change.

Acceptance of change means growth.

Change is introduced to better processes and accelerate the growth of your business and opportunities. Leaders who are progressive and dynamic ensure that change is always happening and that change is a natural part of company growth. In this case, leaders will often have a democratic style and work with employees who have much autonomy. In this case, change is accepted as a positive, non-threatening and offering benefit to the company as a whole.

Change is vital to the success of business growth. In order to encourage your employees to accept change, they must be allowed to be part of decision-making processes. It is often those who are working with technology every day that has the best ideas about how things can be improved. If there can be a discussion, there is more likely to be a conscientious, and fast adoption of new technology with little resistance or loss of top talent.