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Break Down Change Management into Small Steps

You know that old saying, “The only constant is change?” If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, it’s just how true that saying is. The world around us is constantly changing. Sometimes that brings tiny nuances. Sometimes it’s total disruption. In either case, for your business to continue thriving, you must be able to adapt to change. And to change along with the times.


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Research from Gartner reveals that most organizations have undergone five major changes within the past three years, with roughly 75% expecting to undertake more initiatives in the coming years. But in a troubling turn, that same research shows that only 34% of change initiatives are successful.


What’s going wrong?


Approximately 63% of chief human resource officers are unhappy with the speed with which their organizations implement change. Further, some experts in the field proclaim that change management itself is broken, with more than 80% of businesses managing change from the top down. This old-school way of doing things used to work effectively when businesses had a straightforward, vertical structure.


But in today’s business landscape, structures are far more complex and employees have a more interconnected role. Breaking changes down into small steps increases your odds of success and makes it easier to drive lasting change.


Why Take Small Steps?


For most people, lasting change doesn’t come in large leaps, but in taking things one step at a time. By adopting a change management style that takes things step-by-step, it helps better equip, prepare and support everyone as they get used to new ways of doing things. Making small, intentional changes consistently is the best way to create profound and lasting change because over time, each small change has a compounding effect.


Dubbed “microchange management” by Infosys, a digital services and consulting company that used the approach during its Live Enterprise initiative. Over the course of three years, microchange management helped the company go digitally native while enhancing its resiliency and improving the employee experience. The approach is firmly rooted in behavioral theory and techniques that motivate people, giving it a much more personal feeling that you can tailor to best suit your organization.


Three Tips to Make It Easier


Change management describes all the methods that a company uses to implement change. There's a lot to be done. While roughly 66% of changes aren't rousing successes, the failure is typically caused by human error. By changing your approach, you increase the chances that the change(s) you’re making will be successful. These three tips make microchange management manageable:


1. Break Big Changes Into Small Parts


Change can't happen overnight. Especially if you want it to stick. When you're making large-scale transformations, it can be overwhelming. By switching to a micro way of thinking, you can break that large change into small initiatives, each with its own objective and outcome. You can assign small teams to each step, choosing team members with the talent and diverse skills best suited to that small initiative.


2. Make Small Changes to Routines to Create Behavioral Change


When you've been doing any activity for a while, you get used to the routine of it. Your employees are no different. Having to change their routines and habits, being shoved outside of their comfort zone can create resistance that slows and derails the progress you're trying to make. Instead of asking people to make a seismic shift, break down the behavior you want to change by making tiny tweaks. To be effective, try using suggestions and cues combined with recognition and rewards to drive small changes in habits and routines. Each small change is a positive step toward making the behavioral shift you're aiming for while minimizing risk and resistance.


3. Keep Doing These Three Things: Measuring, Learning and Evolving


In business, it's important to continually be evaluating what you're doing, learning how to do things better and evolving to best suit modern needs. Why should your change management initiatives be any different? As you roll out each small step, assess how it's progressing. Are you meeting the desired outcomes? If not, take a look at the data and correct the course you're on through every iteration of the deployment of your steps.


Pilot projects are a great example of how these three things can drive success. Pilots should be made up of around 2.5% of the population of users who will ultimately use that process. You can use what you learn during the pilot to refine your approach before rolling it out. And as you roll it out, continual measurement, learning and course correction will help ensure that you get it assimilated into the entire organization.


The pandemic has underscored the importance of agility for businesses of all types and sizes. Agility is also helpful within the realm of change management. While every business has its own unique vision and path to fulfilling that vision, incorporating change is almost always a must. By breaking change into small steps, you weave agility into each part of what you’re aiming to do and decrease the amount of resistance you’re likely to meet along the way.


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