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Leading Change

FastTrac, Kauffman Foundation

Successful entrepreneurs don't just manage the status quo. Entrepreneurial business situations are often in flux-it's the nature of running a business. But smart entrepreneurs don't just manage their way through the chaos. They figure out where they want to go and utilize specific techniques to champion the changes needed to meet their goals and achieve their vision.

Your company may be the small dog in a pen filled with pit bulls, elephants, and hippopotami. You may be at risk of being trampled, but you've got one killer asset that they can't match-a smaller company's ability to champion change.

You have the advantage over large organizations in which change is extremely difficult because it pushes against entrenched business practices and is resisted by powerful people and departments who might be hurt by it. The very systems that enable big companies to work efficiently inhibit them when sudden change is required.

With a growing business, you realize that change is part of the flow of everyday life. Take advantage of your agility and quickness.

The Change Process

Because change is part of entrepreneurship, it's worthwhile to examine the change process. When your business is growing, the changes you decide to make to achieve your vision and goals can affect your team in various ways.

Change is not easy because the by-product of change is uncertainty. When people are uncertain they can become anxious. Champions of change understand this and make accommodations to help everyone feel more comfortable and to engage them in the changes that will be taking place.

Between the time a successful change effort begins and ends, your employees will undergo some predictable stages. At the beginning of the change effort, they build coalitions according to how they perceive the coming changes. At this stage more people may exhibit positive attitudes because the real effects of the changes are not yet apparent. As the changes are implemented, you will encounter difficulties working them out. Morale can lag, and the strength of your team's character will be tested. Small successes caused by the changes can bring attitudes and productivity up again until your business eventually reaches the goal the changes were intended to achieve.

There is a common progression for a successful change initiative. At the start, some people are excited while others are afraid. Difficulties often arise and must be overcome, too. Eventually, a successful change will become part of the everyday routine. Enthusiasm peeks only after considerable effort and signs of success.

The front line experience of your employees makes them one of the best sources of ideas for changes to improve your business and help it grow.

The Nature of Change

Before you initiate a significant change in your business, consider these important aspects concerning the nature of change:

  • Change efforts are risky and may not create the desired results.
  • Not changing is risky because your competition gains the advantage.
  • Change efforts almost always encounter obstacles. As the graph shows, even successful change efforts face difficulties.
  • Everyone associated with a change effort needs to understand that difficulties will arise and must be overcome. If not, predictable morale problems may sink the change effort.
  • Champions of change must educate others about the nature of change.
  • If the change champions are not at the highest levels of the organization, their efforts will benefit greatly from the support of senior management.

© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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