Technology may drive the need for organizational change, but true change happens amongst flesh-and-blood team members. Change management can be challenging, especially since the results so deeply depend on employee morale alongside the effectiveness of new processes or technological systems.
As a corporate finance executive, though, you have the power — and the responsibility — to drive change in your organization. Here’s how to do it.
What Is Change Management?
Change management is a structured process designed to lead an organization through a period of transition. As such, change management is both a process and a goal. The process might start with the goal of implementing a new technical process or a new set of initiatives, but the real work occurs when you lead your people through that change and transform your company culture as a result.
For that reason, change management has less to do with technical competency than it has to do with the “soft skills” of communication, leadership, and empathy. In fact, the more you lead by example, the easier it will be to implement organizational change.
When Is Change Management Necessary?
Anytime your organization goes through a major change, it may be necessary to implement a change management strategy. Common examples of such include:
- The introduction of new software systems
- Corporate mergers and acquisitions
- New corporate leadership or company policies
- The establishment of new regulatory principles
- Adhering to changing tax policies
As a corporate finance executive, your unique knowledge is often used to guide strategic decisions, which places you in a unique position to guide your organization — or at least your immediate department — through a season of change.
What Finance Executives Need to Know About Change Management
Your leadership is critical when guiding the change management process. Here’s what finance executives and CFOs should understand about change management:
The People Side of Change Is Often the Most Important
Financial professionals are known for their skill with numbers, but when it comes to leading lasting change, it’s people who make the biggest difference.
If you manage change effectively, it can reduce the time it takes to make a transition or adopt a new set of organizational processes. Otherwise, you may see a reduction in productivity or even employee morale. The stress of change can provoke even your most valued workers to part ways with the organization, which may prevent any lasting change from taking root.
For that matter, without proper change management, you could jeopardize your company’s tangible resources, including both money and time. Deploying a structured approach to change must therefore give space for human sensitivities and the capacity to adapt and grow.
Good Communication Goes Both Ways
Strong leaders are good communicators, so you must use every opportunity to talk about the impending change in a positive way. Even if the change presents a struggle, resist the urge to apologize. Instead, thank your people for their resilience, and continue promoting the end goal of the transition process.
Be that as it may, good communication is also about listening. In your role as a finance executive, it’s important to make space to allow your workers to be heard. For example, some CFOs make a habit of checking in with their workers each day and conclude each small conversation with the question, “Is there anything else?”
Remember, you don’t have to solve every problem that an employee brings to your attention. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of making the employee feel heard and valued. That can go a long way toward implementing lasting change, and in many cases, it can strengthen the relationship you have with your subordinates.
Structured Processes Lead to Lasting Change
Leading through change is a bit like pushing a boulder up a hill. If you don’t have a plan for keeping the boulder at the top, you run the risk of having it roll right back down again, sweeping you up in the process.
Similarly, it’s easy for an organization to implement a series of changes only to slide back into the status quo once these changes are completed. Therefore, it’s imperative that corporate leaders structure their change management process in a way that ensures that the changes endure.
That usually means that, as a leader, you’ll have to be at the forefront of the entire change management process. You must be the earliest adapter to new systems and policies. Your people will learn from your example and be more willing to adapt to these changes and flourish in the new environment as a result.
Leading Through Change
The soft skills of leadership can be invaluable in leading your organization through a transition period. Your ability to communicate with your employees and senior management personnel can provide a stabilizing force even as your core processes are being radically altered. In the end, it may be your own resilience that will help to ease the adjustment period and give your organization the strength it needs to face the future with a renewed outlook.
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