Business growth requires effective change management

Leandro Mortenegro

Change is all around us. From technological innovations to cultural shifts in the ways we live, play, and travel, our world is in a constant state of motion. Business is moving faster than ever, too, putting more emphasis on change management, which is now viewed as a necessity to guide companies through major adjustments. But how often is exciting and rapid growth considered a major adjustment? Rarely. And that’s a problem.

Change management techniques are vital to bringing companies through adjustments in how we do business, how we must adapt to shifting business needs, or changes that have the potential to create discord among employees. Yet, all too often the need for change management in positive growth situations is overlooked. People assume that companies can absorb this kind of change because it’s positive, but change is change.

Significant growth, especially in an otherwise fragile economy, can cause significant pain points for employees without the key components of change management. In fact, according to McKinsey & Co., 70 percent of change efforts fail, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. This is why change management is such a critical business tool, even in positive growth situations.

Rapid growth looks different for each business

Rapid growth is very definitional and unique to each business and organization. For example, rapid growth in a non-profit looks much different from rapid growth within a for-profit company; just as rapid growth for a startup differs from that of an established corporation. Growing 20 percent in one year might be huge for the emerging company, while 2 percent growth is impressive for the veteran firm.

To understand when change management is needed in positive growth situations, you must first define what rapid growth looks like for your organization. Once defined, and realized, celebrate. Growth is a remarkable achievement that should be shared company wide. Make sure employees feel included, are acknowledged for their contributions, and you communicate to them what this means in terms of change. Be ready to answer the question, “How does this impact me?”

Rapid growth can cause the following changes, which need to be managed across an organization:

  • Expanding into other areas or opening new offices
  • Becoming a market leader
  • Employing more staff to meet an increased demand for products or services
  • Changes to job roles to accommodate growth and new expectations
  • Expansion to new customer demographics
  • Culture changes
  • Potential employee burnout

Leading people through positive change

Change management is defined as: “the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome.” However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or standard framework that’s repeatable from business to business. It is part of organizational behavior, and the process must be tailored to each entity based on its operating size, type, location, and the platforms available for communicating change.

The communication aspect of the change management process is key, but, as is the case with rapid growth, it’s also unique to an organization and the culture of a company in terms of how you message, what you message, what you share, and how transparent you are with your workforce. Like most business processes, someone must take ownership of change management and convey consistent messaging. This could be the CEO, CFO, or CMO, and then further delegated across a team. The person leading the process must be ready to talk about the change that is happening and help people along that journey with clearly defined objectives, accountability, and responsibility for meeting those objectives driven through the organization.

Ultimately, and especially in positive growth situations where there is reason to celebrate, you have to make the messaging personal to your teams, to your leadership, and to each individual, whether they are the person answering incoming calls or the person making the upper-most strategic decisions of the company. The messaging must be relatable so employees can embrace change with you and go forward with a positive and clear perspective. You want to take people along for the ride, but also propel them to be their best. Utilize technology, especially the platforms that you currently have, but understand that email, texts, DMs, and other forms of digital communication cannot replace a person being visible during periods of rapid growth and change.

Too often companies do a big splash, announcing growth, and then go radio silent. Keeping people informed along the way prepares them and avoids catching them off guard.

Measuring results from change management

Change can create massive fluctuations in business and affect a company’s culture. The impact of change is really determined by the ability in which you measure employee engagement on a regular basis, not just during periods of rapid growth or when something isn’t working.

When implementing any kind of change management framework, feedback mechanisms are necessary. You can use formal feedback forms and quizzes. Or you can have casual conversations with employees. Ask them how they are doing and how they would describe the company and the growth to their family and friends. Is what they would relay to others the messaging you have been trying to convey to them?

When going through periods of exponential growth, companies sometimes get so caught up in the excitement that they often lose sight of what got them there in the first place. Always take time to stop and reflect and keep those growth factors in motion.

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