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Change management is an integral leadership skill that any business leader and entrepreneur needs to master.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the business world over recent years, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, knowing how to lead and manage through unexpected changes can make or break a company.

Aside from these extraordinary events, change management is also vital under ‘normal’ business conditions, and are often required without much notice. Should a business and its leaders not be prepared to effectively manage through developments, problems such as low employee morale and underwhelming customer experience might emerge.

Therefore, here are five steps that business leaders need to follow in order to effectively manage change within their workplace.

1. Recognise and understand the process of change

Each change initiative is unique, yet the majority of successful endeavours tend to effectively follow the steps of the change management process.

Change processes are characterised by a starting point, an endpoint, and three primary stages in between: preparation, implementation, and follow-through.

Preparation is the time when those tasked with managing the change are preparing the business and its employees for the event, such as understanding the need for and vision of the transition. The implementation stage is when the actual change is being executed, while the follow-through is the process of ensuring the change sticks and becomes part of company culture.

Understanding each and every stage is vital for business leaders, so that they prioritise different aspects at different points in time.

2. Identify why a change initiative is necessary

In order to effectively manage change, business leaders must also establish why it is needed. Failing to do so might make it difficult to plan out the entire process, especially when it comes to tackling challenges.

Therefore, they must ask themselves what pressures are driving the change, and whether they are internal or external. Will there be a change in leadership? Has new technology been developed that needs to be implemented? Will the company have to cut costs due to macroeconomic tensions?

Establishing the key factors that have led to the change will make the business leader better suited to address any concerns or challenges that may arise.

3. Form a clear plan to follow

As soon as the motive for change is understood, a plan needs to be created to establish timelines.

Such a plan should broadly outline why the change is being undertaken, its scope, the key stakeholders, the team to oversee it, and also a detailed roadmap of the different steps that will be required to complete it.

A defined strategy allows business leaders to make it easier to explain the change and its goals to employees, as well as to monitor the progress made.

4. Communicate effectively

Communication is essentially the most difficult part of guiding a business and employees through a period of change, yet it could also be the most effective.

Business leaders need to be recognise that they will be communicating the move to two distinct audiences, their workforce, and also key stakeholders.

Employees and team members need to understand the need for the change, along with how it will affect their responsibilities. It is of utmost importance to listen to any of their concerns so that they can be resolved as soon as possible.

On the other hand, stakeholders, such as other managers or board members, need to be convinced that the change is necessary. If they were the ones to entrust a business leader with the change, then that leader must regularly update them on the project’s status.

5. Get ready to manage any hurdles

While enthusiasm may be high during the planning process, not everything is guaranteed to go as expected, so business leaders have to prepare themselves for a number of possible outcomes.

If decision-takers do their best to anticipate such challenges, they can remove some uncertainty from the entire process. It is crucial to identify the major stumbling blocks, and work towards taking them out of the equation.

Should a roadblock prove too difficult to remove, then business leaders need to focus on empowering employees so that the whole business can work together to overcome it.

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