There are likely to have been times when you have wanted to get something done, only to find yourself frustrated months later and left wondering why it didn't happen.
As managing director of The Fry Group I had nine offices, 160 staff and three different business disciplines to try and make work. Driving even the smallest change through such an organisation was never easy.
All businesses are a collective of human beings coming together to deliver a service or product in a common fashion. It's that human element that can sometimes pose the biggest challenge.
When it came to implementing and managing change I tended to follow a tried and tested process.
The only business book I have ever paid any real attention to is Leading Change by John Kotter. In it, Kotter sets out an eight-stage process which applies as much to advice businesses, both large and small, as to any other human endeavour. I'd encourage you to read the book in full, but in the meantime here's my attempt at reducing potentially his life's work to a few short paragraphs:
Establish a sense of urgency
Firstly, there are some questions you need to consider when it comes to managing change. Once you have an idea of the answers, you need to communicate these to your term.
Think about why this change is needed, what problem it addresses and/or what opportunity it capitalises on. The more pressing the argument, the better.
We operate in a regulated environment, and as such some change may be driven by the FCA and other regulators. Yet clearly there will be other challenges where different drivers need to be identified.
These could include introducing a new back office system, reconfiguring your investment process, implementing a new marketing strategy or simply changing the office desk layout. Knowing why you're making the change in the first place will help smooth the implementation process.
Create a 'guiding coalition'
No one individual can do it all so you need to build a team to manage change effectively. That team needs to be in agreement about the direction of travel, but they must also have the ability (and appropriate level of seniority) to deliver and bring others with them. Key people from IT, human resources, compliance and sales etc need to be brought together.
Develop a vision and strategy
This might sound like more management waffle, but if there's no clear idea of what a good outcome looks like, then not to put too fine a point on it, chaos can ensue. Vision and strategy both need to be set at an early stage - the vision is followed by an outline of a logical process that is capable of delivering.
Share the vision
Simplicity and clarity of message will be key. As owner managers, you will perhaps be familiar with the idea that not everyone listens the first time around, so continue to reiterate what you're trying to achieve, across different formats, in order to drive the message home.
Once you're in a position to get going, there can still be issues that block progress. Stop and consider whether you've got the right people with the right training and the right tools to bring in the change you're making - if not, you will soon find out. If there is a blockage, perhaps someone or something in the organisation who simply will not co-operate, you will need to identify this. People may need to be moved off the project if need be.
Generate short-term wins
Nothing motivates quite like some modest early success. If there is some low hanging fruit to pick off and enjoy as part of the process, it's worth finding it. Celebrate the wins and visibly reward those who achieve them. In doing this you foster a culture of success and enthusiasm for further change and innovation.
Consolidate the gains
That said, you have to strike a balance - you don't want to undermine that early sense of urgency by overdoing the praise for short-term wins. If the easy tasks have been tackled, that only means some of the larger and tougher issues remain. Early enthusiasm might start to tail off, but once you're into the meat of the project pressing on will require added determination.
The cultural anchor
With the change made, you and your team cam move forward knowing that change is not only possible, but the new normal. Every opportunity should be taken to reinforce this mindset, and attitudes or actions that allow a backward view to the old process, system, habit or custom must be resisted. In time, embedded change just becomes part of how things are done around here.
Now you can look for the next improvement to make, and introduce the next change project with increased optimism. Using the above I managed to not only deliver worthwhile change, but also identify why previous change programmes failed.
Good luck with your efforts.