Does change have to be painful?A corporate leader’s job is hardly easy.  He or she must efficiently manage employees, account for outside competition, note any changes in the industry landscape and if necessary, profoundly modify the operational model a business should employ.   Ironically, most leaders shrug in defiance at such duties due to their seemingly complex nature.  However, there are a few proven approaches to help streamline any transformation and that can even help companies embrace such change.

Awareness

The first step in solving a problem is realizing one exists.  Unfortunately, this is difficult to accomplish for many dyed-in-the-wool executives.  They may be reluctant to accept change from an ego point-of-view, as their policies may have been incorrect.  Alternatively, they may refuse to admit adaptation is necessary due to the fact that such modification may result in downsizing or the potential loss of jobs and salaries.  If we then combine this psychological concoction, change can hardly be recognized.  Instead, a more open and proactive approach needs to be taken by middle and upper management if any transformation will ever take place.  Outside consultancies can be excellent in aiding this realization, as they will present an unbiased and simultaneously knowledgeable opinion of what needs to be accomplished.

Proaction as Opposed to Reaction

It is quite difficult to change after an opportunity has already passed.  Indeed, many companies are in the unenviable position to look at their mistakes in hindsight.  They neglect to understand that the landscape of business can change within a matter of days depending on external variables.  Therefore, although management may realize the need for transformation, it may come as too little and too late.  A constant monitoring of internal pipelines, sales figures, marketing efficacy and employee sentiment must be measured in real-time.  Ultimately, this can avoid a company’s operations being determined by the question “How did we do?”  Instead, management can inquire “How are we doing?”

The Importance of People

Utilizing the right people at the right time is crucial for change to take place.  While this may be altogether obvious, what may not be as clear is that not all people are cut out for the job.  Involving potential decision makers that may have an overly traditional view of business operations may actually hamper any efforts, while choosing those who are eager and yet under-qualified can lead to any transformation to possibly move in the wrong direction.  A farmer would not choose to move his land based off of an astronomical sign nor would he employ a novice when switching to a new staple crop.  Likewise, a business needs to utilize those people who possess the talent, the will and the experience to enact change in the most efficient manner.  Sometimes this can be accomplished by recruiting internal staff or department heads, while other times it may be necessary to temporarily employ third party specialists to help expedite the process.

Appreciate the Line Between Efficiency and Growth

Growth is not necessarily defined as hiring more employees, nor is efficiency always associated with trimming down a workforce.  Instead, leverage those capabilities which are essential and then let nature take its course.  This may seem counterintuitive, for management tends to enjoy being actively involved in such profound decisions, however there may be numerous conflicts of interest that can arise.  Some of these have been mentioned before and include ego and fear of failure.  However, there are indeed times when management may not have their finger on the active “pulse” of a company’s needs (thus the necessity for change in the first place).  Delegate responsibility to those best qualified, monitor the progress from a distance and observe the results to determine if the current strategy is working.

Persistence

Rome was not built in a day nor can a business transform overnight.  Even the most successful turnarounds went through their fair share of trials and tribulations.  Setbacks should be expected.  Money may be lost and revenue may be curtailed for a relatively short period of time.  This is not necessarily representative of a flawed approach, but rather indicative of the “growing pains” that many businesses need to endure to rise to a higher echelon.

Evaluate and Evaluate Again

All of these tips are moot points if there isn’t some form of internal evaluation.  “How are we doing?” is once again a question that needs to be asked constantly.  Feedback from any relevant parties needs to be obtained while financial concerns should not be glossed over.  Many seemingly self-critical questions should be asked.  Is the timing right?  Have we leveraged the correct individuals and talents for the job?  Has our company mission objective changed and if so, how?  Do we need to redefine our branding?  Are these changes sustainable and what are the milestones that we need to achieve?  These are but a few of the questions that need to be asked during the constant process of reevaluation.

Return to the Original Intention

It is critical to recognize that during such profound change, goals can be masked in the mists of confusion and adaptation. A clearly articulated vision can help here. Therefore, the initial goal needs to be remembered throughout this entire process.  Indeed, each stakeholder must be reminded of their piece in the grand scheme; their ultimate purpose.  This can help incentivize those involved as well as lead to a quicker overall transition.

Above all, we must all be cognizant that the business world is in constant flux.  What worked yesterday may not work today and may be obsolete tomorrow.  By following this handful of guidelines, a business can be assured that any change necessary can occur efficiently and with the greatest chance of success.