Change and continuous improvement within an organisation walk hand-in-hand but change management aren’t always used in the right way. Understanding the relationship between change management and continuous improvement is critical to making effective changes, but how can you successfully combine change and improvement in an organisation?
A change management specialist will often despair at how companies use change management to iron out problems on an ad hoc basis, a short-sighted solution that fails to truly deliver the results the organisation clearly needs.
Organisations should seek to improve what they do and how they do on a consistent basis – and when they do it triggers a change process. And when this happens it needs to be acknowledged and managed.
The relationship between change management and continuous improvement
Most organisational change consultants will agree that change can be difficult and cumbersome. A company in the flux of altering what and how it does something can feel unwieldy and clunky, and yet the very thing it is trying to achieve is not. Continuous improvement and change in an organisation are tightly interlinked – you can’t have one without the other.
To improve, a company and its staff, stakeholders and investors need to be continually learning, looking for ways and means to fuel growth and development.
In essence, a change management specialist will put forward the theory that real change management is tangible, quantifiable, and critical to driving sustainable growth and improvement within an organisation.
We know that an improvement can be short term, but an agile-thinking company will want sustained growth and improvement. And in order to engineer this, it needs to continually change and adapt. Over time, there will be incremental changes made. It could be the physical expansion of the premises, for example, or a shakeup in the roles within the company, moving away from obsolete roles to others.
Change doesn’t have in a vacuum. And once it is implemented successfully, it doesn’t mean that there are no more adaptations to come. In effect, the state of flux that a company finds itself when it makes changes to its processes should be a place that it becomes ‘comfortable’ operating in.
Change and seeking to continually improve performance is the reason why many organisations seek to work with organisational change consultants. Whilst exciting and a proven driver to success, delivering products and services where is this sense of change hoovering can be difficult to manage.
It’s finely balanced. On one hand, looking to drive a company forward by continually improving what it does, and how it does it, makes sense. But manage it poorly and it can feel like there is no relief or that it is ‘never good enough’.
Continually looking for the next big thing can lead to poor performance and so there needs to be a collective, company-wide understanding that standing still in the marketplace means competitors will streak ahead, and that could spell disaster.
Balancing change and continuous improvement
A change management specialist will work within a company to implement the changes that are identified as being needed to that the company is perpetually propelled forward, and may suggest change management training for key figures within the organisation so that the implementation can be delivered holistically.
There are many hints, tips and ideas of how this should happen successfully. Each change management consultant will have different ideas but at the heart of every successful project of this kind – and the company that continually strives for improvement – are employees.
Engaging with employees at every step of the process is key:
#1 Ownership – any change management project should be owned throughout the company, from the boardroom to the shop floor. Everyone should have a clear understanding of why, as a business, there needs to be change and collaboration in order for improvement to happen.
#2 Buy-in – stakeholders and others with a vested interest in the company will also need to have an understanding of why this is the case. Getting people on board in this way ensures maximum support and participation.
#3 Involvement – the right people involved will make a huge difference to this type of project. Organisation change consultants will often seek a range of people from within the company to help drive the project forward. By doing so, the negative impacts on the business, including misinformation circulating, remains low.
#4 Effective communication – poor or non-existent communication is the foe of change and improvement within a company. Wild rumours and misinformation are equally as damaging. Maintaining a consistent circulation of information is essential and needs to be fair too with anyone directly impacted receiving the information before others.
#5 Impact – call change will affect everyone in the company, but how much will vary depending on what is taking place. It goes without saying that there will be impacts on the business too. It is essential that these are recognised and evaluated: is it what the organisation wants?
#6 Acceptance – improvement means doing something better but in order to do so, there needs to be a change in process or personnel. Not everyone views improvement through the same lens and so working with teams on accepting new and different ways of doing things is an important factor of change management.
In summary – the benefits of a continuous improvement culture
Organisations that excel at a culture of continuous improvement will benefit from:
- a better acceptance of change and innovations – when organisations are stuck accepting the status quo, anything new is viewed with suspicion thus delaying any level of improvement.
- improved morale – there is a dynamism to companies who continually seek new ways to do things. Innovation is a great fuel for leading change within a business.
- increased motivation across its workforce – when people know that new ideas are not only accepted but encouraged, there is more likely to be input into growing the business, which could improve results.
There is no denying the positive impact of combining change and continuous improvement in an organisation.