Setting change up for success

Setting up for change from the start should mean you don’t have as many unexpected surprises along the way. Dave Chatham of Partners in Change offered his tips to the Inflexion portfolio at the latest Digital Exchange.

It is often said that change is the only constant in life, and that is typically true of businesses. As leadership teams drive strategy, change is often necessary for success. While ambition may help agree goals, actually achieving them is another matter – and that can be tough for SMEs.

This is often because enthusiasm can outstrip capacity and capability, particularly in smaller businesses.

“Vision, ambition and capability can get confused and result in expecting too much to be delivered. SMEs in particularly rarely have the size or shape to deliver major change on their own – and rightly so – with change leadership an experience-based skill that few will have in-house,” warns Dave Chatham, Founding Director of Partners in Change.

Delivering change at any organisation is complex, and at smaller, leaner firms is best tackled in small doses. “There are certain elements you need to orchestrate for successful change, and it’s not unusual for organisations to lack all the tools they need to drive this. It’s important to know your limitations and ensure you can access what you need,” Dave points out.

Steps for successful change

Strategy – This starts with the vision, and should also include consideration of business outcomes and drivers informed by market/competitor/customer analysis, and business case/KPIs for executing

Readiness – It’s important to consider how the customer and colleague experience will change, as well as the future operating model, the technical architecture needed to support it, and the approach and method for delivery

Execution – Many areas to tackle here, include governance and control, stakeholder engagement, delivery, launch, service and business readiness

Continuous delivery – Last but not least, ensuring it’s gone and continues to go well – continuous improvement, revalidating the strategy and roadmap, monitoring KPIs and getting customer feedback

Of course, the different aspects to change mean there are pitfalls that can occur along the way. Initial enthusiasm around the vision can trump effective assessment of ability to carry it out in-house. “Beware of your limits. It’s important to draw on the opinions and experiences of others to help you be realistic about what capacity you have versus what capability is needed to drive this forward,” Dave says.

Given the complexity of many change programmes, it is often a good idea to bring specific change leadership on board, who can bring experience of what resources and capabilities are needed and when. This is a very different skill to operational leadership focussed on the core functions of a business. 

Change is necessary to drive business plans forward – but must be done carefully to succeed.

Top tips for change management

  • Have a clear vision and communicate this across the organisation. Set outcomes and measures that tell you where you are on the journey and when you’ll reach the next goal
  • Mobilise well: Jumping straight from the vision to the delivery is a common pitfall and can mean you then have to go backwards. You need to step back and ensure you understand what the change means for your customers, colleagues, business processes, data and tech – before you set off
  • Be realistic about your capacity and capability and that of your team. You’re very good at the core function of your business, and that still needs to run effectively
  • Recognise and plug experience and capability gaps and inject what is needed
  • Make sure you can actively orchestrate the change – the right level of governance, controls and constructive assurance. An appropriate delivery model is also essential
  • Seek out and draw on critical friends – the power of multiple minds, experiences and opinions to gain insight on what is needed

Inflexion supports its portfolio to initiate change to drive sustainable growth, enabled by technology and digital enhancement. Whether developing new projects, crafting actionable plans across technology, data and product, or supporting digital marketing, we have a dedicated and highly experienced team which supports management along the way. Ensuring the change is expertly managed is a key part to success.