Many businesses are changing their focus, expanding or contracting their activities and rethinking their products and services and how they deliver them. This is particularly so during times of significant uncertainty, for example following the Covid 19 pandemic and the vote by the UK to leave the EU. In this context, businesses need to introduce and manage change to achieve objectives, whilst maintaining the commitment of their people, as well as ensuring that business continues as usual. 
Yet research shows that most change initiatives fail to get their intended outcomes and may even limit business potential. The effects of not managing change effectively can be devastating, so it’s important that business owners understand the issues and techniques to support effective change. So, with this in mind we have put together a number of points to help with implementing business change during challenging time. 
 
To start, conventional business structures are being replaced by project teams, networks and virtual structures. Some of these, for example virtual and project-based, can allow increased flexibility to respond to change. However, they are not always implemented consistently, and in practice experience issues that affect the change, for example ability to share knowledge and to operate efficiently. As well as impacting on employee communication or commitment. 
 
Other change issues 
Individual change initiatives are not always done as part of the wider business environment 
Lack of effective project management - change initiatives can be over or under managed 
Insufficient relevant training 
Lack of effective leadership 
Poor communication for example, imposed change can lead to greater employee resistance 
 
Resistance to change can be defined as an individual or group engaging in acts to block or disrupt an attempt to introduce change. Resistance is not necessarily negative, as it may be a clear signal that the change initiative requires more thought. Resistance itself can take many different forms from subtle undermining and withholding of information to active resistance. 
 
Reasons for resistance include; loss of control, shock of the new, uncertainty, inconvenience, threat to status and competence fears. It is important not to assume that resistance is negative, and to try to understand the cause of the resistance as this will help determine the focus in trying to address the issue. Research suggests that ‘resistance to change’ may in fact be a deep-rooted threat response, designed to keep us safe. 
 
It’s clear that change is complex and there isn’t a single solution to managing it. However, techniques can be applied to a variety of scenarios to enhance the effectiveness of change. 
 
Plan for the change 
Business owners need to be able to identify aspects of the business that may hinder change. The change can then be designed in a way that overcomes obstacles to enable the desired change. 
 
For change to succeed, employers should align strategic and cultural aims. Using new strategic goals as a starting point, they must identify a culture in terms of beliefs and behaviours. If open discussion and debate is encouraged this enables more proactive, opportunistic change to happen, as leaders become more open to moving away from old business models as they become irrelevant. 
 
Techniques for building understanding 
Change can be facilitated if a change vision is ambitious yet also presented in ambiguous terms, with the deliberate intention to encourage individuals to actively question and attempt to make sense of their situation. 
 
Narratives and stories can be used as devices to make the content and implications of new strategies easier to understand, enhancing individuals’ ability to translate change into meaningful actions for themselves. Use of objects, metaphors, symbols and pictures can help engage employees and to enable them to translate change into meaningful actions. 
 
Managing the change 
Rather than implementing change through authority and control, change can be achieved through negotiations and social interactions with employees. High levels of trust will enable significant change to be achieved. Leaders need to emphasise their trustworthiness by demonstrating their competence and their integrity in the way they attend to the needs of the business, employees and the wider community. 
 
The actions of employees who raise concerns about change should not be labelled as resistance, but instead reinterpreted in terms of employee voice. Change is often an emotional process and so emotional awareness by those leading change is required to anticipate and plan for reactions. Those managing the change must also maintain levels of energy and momentum throughout the change process. 
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