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Managing Change in Business: A Board-Level Imperative

The name Boardside originates from a recognition that many of the cultural and procedural elements of an organisation that lead to future commercial and employment challenges are matters for the board.  Moreover, when it comes to change management, whilst it might be nice to leave all that messy stuff for HR to deal with, actions and attitudes of the board will set the tone for the entire organisation. Mismanagement of change can lead to a decline in employee morale, reduced productivity, customer dissatisfaction and ultimately, financial losses.

The Impact of Poor Change Management

Before we leave the doom mongering behind us, let’s think in more detail about the impact of not doing change well. How can the board avoid some of the pitfalls that can lead to dissatisfaction and talent drift?

In our experience of advising boards on the strategic framework upon which good employment practices are built, we have seen time and again that the lack of a structured change management process leads to widespread confusion among employees and customers alike.

Put simply, the impact of poor planning and communication is disrupted business operations and damaged customer relationships.

Dealing with change as a board

A board-led approach to change of any kind within an organisation, whether it is simply a shift in commercial emphasis or a major transformation restructure, helps to keep the end result in mind and gives the whole project a firm and defined focus. The board can proceed with a pure emphasis on business objectives. However, it is important to bear in mind that dialogue throughout the organisation will be a vital element of success.

The objective is to avoid chaos and the disintegration of culture and ethos. A board should be proactive in ensuring all parts of the organisation are aligned and prepared for change. This includes communicating the aforementioned culture and ethos (you would be surprised to learn that many boards and senior management teams like to keep their vision to themselves – or maybe you wouldn’t?).

The five steps to managing change well are often described as follows:

  1. Planning – Develop a plan for implementing the change, including identifying who is responsible for each area, down to task level, and creating a timeline
  2. Preparing – This is where you prepare your employees for the change; explaining the as is and future state, and what will happen to close the gap. It’s critical to explain the impact on the employee and what they can expect, including any training they will be given on any new systems or procedures.
  3. Implementing – This is where the rubber meets the road, and the change is put into practice.  Working with employees through the implementation phase is key to keeping the programme on track.
  4. Monitoring – This is continuous and is needed to keep abreast of the changes, ensuring the changes are activated as planned, addressing roadblocks and issues as they arise to ensure a smooth transition.
  5. Evaluating – Evaluation of the implementation and the success – has the change met the success parameters?  Does it meet the definition of done?  It’s a great opportunity to conduct a retrospective, and to also take the opportunity to learn and improve for future programmes.

Tips for Mitigating Poor Change Management

If you already find yourself in a situation where change has happened, or is happening, and the preparation has been – how shall we put it? – inadequate, do not panic. There is still time to establish clear objectives and communication. Board members should work with management to define the objectives of the change clearly and communicate these goals throughout the organisation. Transparency helps in managing the expectations of all stakeholders and reduces uncertainty and resistance.

Engage with your stakeholders. Change should not be imposed from the top down. Engaging with employees, customers, and other stakeholders early in the process can provide valuable insights, foster cooperation, and build advocacy, which is critical for successful change implementation.

Provide training and support for employees. They will be more likely to embrace change if they feel supported. Providing training and resources that help them understand and adapt to new methods or technologies is crucial.

Implementing change is not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. Continuous monitoring of the change process and being ready to make necessary adjustments based on feedback and results is essential. Expanding on this, and continuing the theme of board-led change, leadership plays a pivotal role in change management. Board members and senior executives should lead by example, embracing the changes themselves and demonstrating their commitment to the process.

Boardside provides strategic employment law support to boards, to create a healthy culture and employment structure. For further information about how we work with boards contact Richard Port