We speak to thousands of facility managers each year. One of the hardest things for any of them to grasp is the ability to manage change. Change is new, refreshing, rejuvenating; it can be fun, exciting, adventurous, and bold. But in reality, for most people, change is risky, dangerous, and all too often unpredictable.
Change invokes feelings of uneasiness; it is the unknown, and with it comes the fear of what will truly happen. Although everyone in business says that they enjoy change, the truth is most people do not. We all know that it’s career/business-suicide to admit we hate change, and so we tend to run or try to hide away from it; just to pretend it doesn’t really exist. It doesn’t have to be this way.
There is a way for change, no matter how scary the inevitable result may be, to be handled as smoothly as possible and allow a calm transition to take place. It is called a plan.
Our company, Allied Modular, changes every day. Having a good solid plan for change, we have come to find, is always the best approach. But before you an implement any plan, there is one thing you must make certain in order to ensure a smooth transition. Just like the oil in a manual auto-transmission, communication is the center-point to a calm, steady, smooth transition into change.
Communicating change to your employees and staff eases the fear of what they can expect in the near future. Whether you are making a departmental change, process change, or moving your facility, proper communication needs to take place before proper planning can even begin. In many cases, proper planning for change involves input from other employees and staff. You may think announcing change before having a plan is unconventional, but surprising employees and staff with mysterious questions and statements while in the planning stages of change is actually a lot more unnerving then simply announcing, ‘We feel change to be unavoidable; and although we do not have a plan at hand to share with you, we look forward to hearing your input as we develop a plan to deal with the inevitable.’ Easy enough, right? Good.
Now that you have the key ingredient, there are several other important steps and issues that need to be addressed in order for change to occur smoothly throughout the organization. We will go over each of these items to help you better understand how to plan for change. So, without further ado: How to Write a Plan for Change.
How to Write a Plan for Change:
The plan, itself, can be as simple, or as detailed, as you want it to be. You can start with a few random questions thrown together, in an orderly outline, or simply just a bullet point list of topics that need to be considered. Personally, I like the bullet point plan. Listing out the issues to consider provides you a quick reference point and aids in making changes to your initial plan after mentally walking through it. Here are some of the many questions you might want to ask yourself:
- Is change in our future?
- What is our timeframe?
- How will this affect our staff, and the customers?
- Is the downtime acceptable?
- How will this affect our infrastructure?
- Can we minimize the impact?
- What are our long-term goals?
Now, just in case you’re having a bit of trouble putting these questions to mind and really beginning to dig deep with them, let’s take some time and look through a few of them together.
Is change in our future?
I hope that by this point in the article you have already established if there is imminent change in your company’s future. If so, great! If not, great!
The first thing you must establish is if a specific change is inevitable. One must identify the change. Ask yourself, what are the implications of this change? How big or how small is it? Is it truly going to affect my company? If it is, it is now time to start planning, and so far, you are on the right track. If there is no change in the near future, then at least you are preparing for it by reading this article.
What is our timeframe?
Once you have realized just what kind of change is heading your way, the next hurdle should be establishing just how much time you have until the change reaches you. For example: state legislature has just past a new law that subsequently forces you to change your policies. The perfect question to ask is, ‘when will the law take effect?’ With that information you now have set your countdown timer. T-minus so many months, days, hours, and minutes until this change take effect.
To go even further, the next hurdle is establishing how much time you want the transition itself to take. Let’s say the new law takes effect in 6 months. If the transition is estimated to take 1 month, the last thing you want to do is start it halfway through the 5th month. Transitions take time. In considering how long you have before the change comes, it is imperative you also consider much time will it take for my company to transition into or through the change.
How will this affect our staff, and the customers?
Changes within a company have the ability to affect the staff and customers on many different levels. It is important to remember there are many facets to consider when it comes time to put staff and customers to mind. The many issues to place on the table are just too many for us to consider right now, but the best advice I can give you is, if in nothing else, take the most time chewing through these set of topics.
Remember that your staff is the life blood of your company. To leave them out of consideration, when planning for change, is irresponsible. Also, keeping your employees out of the loop is just asking for failure. Most employees want to help the managers, executives, and, in turn, the company to become successful; and they will all lend a hand if they know that there is a purpose for it.
On the other side of things, also remember that it is truly the customer that provides nourishment to your company. Income and profits would cease to exist if it was not for the customers and clients that choose your services or products. Without them, your company would starve.
In the end, the best plan of action is our familiar key from before, called communication. Before, during, and after the planning stage, you will come to find, that it is much easier and smoother if you communicate with both your staff and even your customers. Remember, communication settles the nerves.
Is the downtime acceptable?
During the transition mode, there might be a need for downtime. Downtime, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is referring to a moment of time when production or services are on hold while changes are being made or they are taking affect. During downtime, there is either a partial loss of production, or a full loss.
In any case, once it is established that downtime is unavoidable, this must be included in the plan. Along with stating how long it will take, you should also consider when and how the downtime will be implemented. What processes will remain functional? How will our financials be affected? Who will supervise the changes? Upon return, will staff have to be retrained? Can downtime be implemented in stages rather then al at one time? Can we afford it? Is there a better way? These and many more are questions to ask when considering if the downtime is truly acceptable.
What are our long-term goals?
Typically, when thinking about long-term goals, you want to aim 3-10 years ahead. The more ambitious your company or people may be, the farther down the road your long-term goals should be.
In any plan, whether big or small, a goal of some sort should be developed so everyone involved understands that the real finish line is not only months ahead, but many times, years ahead. They need to understand what goals need to be met, and, just as importantly, when they need to be met. Establishing goals allows those involved to truly measure their level of success or failure. Nobody likes to fail, and almost certainly your staff will do whatever possible to make sure that it doesn’t happen, but they are seriously hindered if they are not sure what the company, department, and individual goals actually are.
If necessary, after establishing the company goals, you may need to break into your various departments and have them set their own goals, and even further help the staff create their own personal goals as well.
Communicate the Plan:
You have asked yourself all the necessary questions, answered as many as you could yourself or with your team, consulted with other professionals in and out of the organization to gain further knowledge, and you have also taken the time to write it all down and lay it all out as clearly as possible. Now it is time to put our key ingredient into full action.
By this point I hope this is not the first time your staff is hearing from you that there will be some significant changes in their future. If you read this article from the beginning then you would know that communicating to your staff, coworkers and customers is an absolute must from the start, especially when a big change on the horizon is imminent. And since I’m assuming you have read it from the beginning I won’t reiterate and instead move further into communicating your actual plan.
Whether it I passing out the whole plan, or summarizing it for everyone in a big conference meeting—no matter how you decided to initially share it—there should be a question and answer session with everyone involved so you can gain ideas on how the plan may be modified or changed for the better. Some of the best ideas come from the most unlikely places. A staff member that doesn’t speak up much may have more insight than you might think. This exercise is all about listening. Get rid of all your fore thoughts in writing the plan and don’t argue your points with any of them. Soak it all in. You might find that you will have to revise your plan and communicate it once again.
Rewrite the Plan with Contingencies:
After you’ve thoroughly listened to your staff and colleagues, it’s time to rewrite the plan and include a contingency plan, or two, that address some of the more important issue brought by your staff, and also help to answer the question, what if something goes wrong? Running a contingency plan or a plan B is vitally important in case something doesn’t go as planned, as we all know, happens very easily these days. Plan accordingly and prepare for as much as possible.
On occasion, planning for change involves some outside help. Don’t be afraid to do so. The benefits of bringing in outside help can be priceless in many cases.
As a company, Allied Modular helps other businesses transition through their changes with no or as little impact as possible. For example: downtime for any business is usually the largest profit killer of all. Unforeseen time and costs are not recognized until its way too late. Instead, we do our best to avoid downtime, and aim to save you money and time in every facet possible. We help you execute your plan… but yes, it must first be your plan.
In the end, not a having plan, period, can cause loss of revenue, lower employee morale, increase customer service issues, and in-turn, a loss of profit. Don’t let your customers; personnel and company suffer due to not having an effective plan. It is said, “Failure to plan, is a plan to fail.”
Also remember, change is scary only before you have a plan to actually deal with it. It’s time we come out of under the blanket, and embrace the change we see coming ahead.