What is Change Readiness?

As the UK moves towards the Brexit deadline, now proposed for 31st January 2020, there is ongoing business uncertainty. What will change overnight and will a twelve-month transition period be adequate to agree everything else? This is a challenging backdrop for SME leaders, who may already be dealing with economic pressure and digital transformation.

So – if you are a small or medium-sized business getting ready for Change, you may be interested to read our top tips. These recommendations stem from working extensively on change and transformation, including Brexit readiness projects with HMRC Customs teams. This blend of processes and skills can help you manage change, maintain productivity and make the transition as smooth as possible.  

Visual tools

As a change facilitator, I like to keep things practical and simple, by using visualisation. Visual tools are really powerful. They give leaders and teams a faster and shared understanding of the challenges. People rapidly identify key themes and they make clear progress towards shared business objectives. By helping with all of this, visuals have the power to unstick leaders who are overwhelmed and teams that are resistant.

This is quite often the starting place when I’m asked to support business change or transformation.

The graph below shows how HMRC Customs teams improved their skills and capability for change back in 2016. This simple tool not only helped operators to improve their own skill levels, it gave their leader full confidence in her team to train new recruits themselves. This also reduced the need to use senior Change Managers for training, which was a further monetary benefit.

Change Readiness pie chart

Following the success of this simple graph, I got the idea to create a Pie Chart to support other HMRC Customs teams to prepare for Brexit-related change in 2017. Change themes were depicted as different segments on the chart. Each segment needed various actions, such as further training or problem solving activity.

This approach lent the change plans just the right level of granularity, for leaders and teams to collaborate effectively. Visualisation encourage the right open and objective dialogue. As a consequence, leaders and teams developed the understanding, confidence, capability, and commitment to manage the challenges ahead.

So, even with little detail about how new Brexit processes would impact on their roles, they were skilled up and ready to pull together as a team, as soon as processes needed to change. My Change Readiness Pie Chart was adopted as a standard planning tool across other Customs teams.

Recommendations for Change Readiness – The ‘Whats’

To help SMEs navigate the imminent uncertainty associated with the Brexit deadline, I’ve developed a Brexit Readiness Pie Chart (see diagram). This shows my recommended ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’ to prepare for major change.

This visual tool is designed to engage leaders and teams in action for change. When introduced as a structured project or programme, this approach can also help maintain or improve productivity.

The pie chart segments depict the key processes and technical skills, known as Hard Skills. I think of these as the ‘Whats’ of Change. They are key to helping organisations measure preparedness for Change. Segments are assessed as Red, Amber or Green, depending on their current state (RAG status). The colour is be altered in line with progress as Change Readiness improves.  

Here are my top ten recommendations for Change Readiness processes and technical skills – the Whats.

1. Understand current performance

2. Define business vision

3. Develop KPIs & measures to track productivity

4. Communicate and plan for change

5. Undertake Gap analysis & risk analysis

6. Assess Skill needs

7. Clearly define roles and responsibilities

8. Strengthen problem solving skills

9. Strengthen value mapping skills

10. Plan for sustainment

Recommendations for Change Readiness – The ‘Hows’

Just as importantly, these recommendations should be driven in a collaborative, engaging style, using Soft Skills. I think of these as the ‘Hows’ of Change. They are the text boxes around the outside of the chart, and these depict  key factors that make up the best environment for change. Done right, the ‘Hows’ become the culture – or ‘the way we do things round here’.   

Here are my top tips for getting the right change culture in place – the Hows.

1. Leadership Commitment

2. Empower & engage

3. Collaboration

4. Visual control

5. Customer value focus

6. Costs & Benefit focus

7. Change control process

8. Change assurance process

Wider application of visual charts

The segments of the Pie Chart can be set at different levels – from a strategic review, to a light touch assurance tool, to tasks on a team action plan. It’s not just about the words on the page, it’s the principle of visually engaging people in change and improvement that matters more.

By using this effective approach to implement the key elements of change, leaders and teams develop transferrable skills that remain relevant during further periods of change. For example, they can:

  • use a collaborative, coaching style to get the best out of any group of people
  • apply problem solving principles to prioritise different challenges
  • map manual systems and work out the potential savings of automation.  

Further information

1. The East Midlands Chamber is delivering a very helpful programme of specific and technical guidance to help prepare regional SME businesses for imminent change. More information and booking details can be found here.  

2. It may help some SME leaders to know they are not alone in their feelings about Brexit. If you want to learn more about Strexit – the stress surrounding Brexit, watch this short video from Dr Cary Cooper of the University of Manchester explaining why we feel like this, and how the situation could be improved.  

3. Here is a case study on Coca Cola, authored by McKinsey senior partners, Scott Keller and Bill Shallinger. The company experienced significant measurable productivity improvement when equal emphasis was put on the hard and soft elements of change. This approach encouraged people to work together much more collaboratively.

‘Staff turnover at US operations fell by almost 25 percent. Employee-engagement scores jumped so high that external researchers …. who conducted the survey hailed what it called an “unprecedented improvement.” ‘

4. If you want to better understand how prepared your organisation is for significant change, please get in touch to request a Change readiness review, where we can work through the Pie chart ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’, to identify your challenges and priorities for action. Either call us on 07824 660120 or email info@losethebox.co.uk. 

5. Finally, if you want to know more about how we could help you or your organisation to effectively lead change in increasingly ambiguous and complex environments, you can read more here. If you have any other queries, please do get in touch by calling 07824 660120 or email info@losethebox.co.uk. 

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