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How to Approach Business Change

Change is constant and evolution can be the difference between profit and loss.

This change can be voluntary or forced and involve any aspect of a firm – whether financial, regulatory, technological or operational. A business that’s not prepared to change will soon fall behind its competitors that are willing to adapt. But businesses that want to embrace change must approach it in the correct manner.

Often the most significant barrier to change is not the willingness of the owners or managers, but the staff. Obtaining buy-in from staff will significantly influence the success or failure of any change. When change is discussed it’s often considered to be for negative reasons – for example, the business has hit troubled times financially and needs to reduce expenses, or technological advancement results in necessary job losses. But even a positive reason for driving change can be a disruptive influence if managed badly.

So, how do you address the challenges staff can pose during an uncertain time? Once the need for transformation has been recognised by the leadership, it’s imperative that staff are consulted. They will probably already be aware of the changes – whether because industry-wide news is discussing a change to the market or rumours have started. The sooner a business can talk to its staff the quicker they will buy into it.

Whether the change is positive or negative, most employees will respect the leadership for taking action and for discussing it directly with them. Make sure you take the time to understand the concerns of staff. If you accept any of the points identified as causing concern you can respond to them. Not every issue can be overcome, but you can aid understanding of why that’s the case.

Where you can adapt, do so. Listen to the ideas and suggestions of your staff and be prepared to change your own views and plans accordingly. Staff are often much closer to service delivery and clients and as such their views are valuable. Where there is an impact on jobs, particularly losses, ensure your message is clear and consistent so you don’t lose key people through a period of uncertainty.

Also, don’t rush change – ensure your plan is clear and those involved are aware of the time frame for delivery. Set milestones against which progress can be measured. Once the change is about to be implemented take stock of where you have arrived and of information gathered along the journey. This will be the last time you can make adjustments. Consult your key team, review what you set out to achieve and see if final amendments are needed.

If your preparations have been thorough, the implementation stage should be the easiest part. But for change to be successful, it must be thought out, discussed and implemented. Change does not stop when the business has delivered its new way of working – ongoing monitoring is essential because the business needs to know if targets have been hit and goals met. If not, managers should be asking: “Why? Do we need to change again?” It may help to have an impartial, outsider view of the change – staff may respond better to external expertise on such matters.

At The Strategic Partner, we work with and alongside firms to implement long term strategic to deliver success covering all facets of law firm management. For more information on our strategic business review and planning service contact us on 0207 842 1830email us or make an online enquiry and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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