Everyone seems to be saying that change is the new norm, in reality, change is difficult in a business environment. For example, the hype about the paperless office and how it will revolutionise time management is only partially true in many sectors as physical evidence of agreement, or approval, within a process is required. So how is it best to approach change and how is it most successfully implemented
Things need to change in businesses for a variety of reasons, change in regulations, change in external processes, change in technological capability, are just a few.
Just looking at these examples, for April 2019, we have Making Tax Digital (MTD for short) going live for qualifying businesses. For me this a prime example of why businesses need to change the way they do things. MTD is meaning some businesses will have to invest time and money into something that is alien to them, and they will need to understand the changes required. They may also benefit from further assistance to understand how they can actually change to make it advantageous, but this will require more effort. Longer term benefits could be more efficiency within the business easier cost control, easier recognition of profitable product lines, etc.
Other things can be more subtle, like the removal from service of ISDN lines. We will still have telephones. There will still be an exterior connection. However, the by getting to know more about the underlying product allows you to make the most of the situation.
Once it has been identified that your business has to make a change there is only one thing to do – make a plan.
Oddly the place to start is at the end result. If you don’t identify this correctly you change will not be successful.
Let’s show this with a bit of a silly example, your plan is to change the colour scheme in your office. So, you go to the paint store and you but the appropriate amount of paint and you buy it because it is on sale. The colour you end up buying is muddy brown and your branding is all pastel greens and yellows. The end result will be a dark space and one not in line with your branded colours. I believe this shows how ineffective a change can be as can cause contradiction within your business.
Changes without plans, will then often backfire. Then again so will changes that do not have any checkpoints, or reviews. Well, if you had opened the paint pot and seen the colour that had been provided would you still have painted all the walls? I would argue not unless it was being done that way for a purpose. So if it is the right colour, paint away, if not return it and get the correct one.
So, what stages have we got so far?
- Plan, paint the office (even better to define the colour)
- Do, buy the paint
- Check, the colour of the paint
- Act, paint, or return the paint.
This is what it looks like pictorially
These stages are part of a technique called the Deming Cycle and is very common practice when performing changes in a business. As you can imagine, with complex changes the Deming cycle can be used at various points to make sure that the changes work properly, if not diagnose the fault and correct it.
At home an electrician might follow a similar principle to check that a new piece of wiring works correctly by checking the connection(s) at each affected socket.
Changing your office space to a muddy brown colour wouldn’t seem to make sense, unless there was an underlying purpose, like a feature as part of a campaign. So, with how I view things I would not be immediately chuffed with all muddy brown walls.
I would be chuffed if the process exposed the fact that incorrect paint was purchased and it was returned, replaced and the correct colour purchased to provide the desired effect.
I would be even more chuffed if my process eradicated the unnecessary step of buying the incorrect paint in the first place.
I would be extremely chuffed is everything went right first time and the result was exactly what was intended. This takes the correct amount of planning, nice easy (where possible), bite sized (definitely) steps – including checkpoints – to come together. As Leonardo di Vinci said: great things happen when lots of small things happen in the right order.
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