Outside of the quality manual, procedures, accreditation and so forth lies the biggest challenge - changing the culture of the workforce into one that will accept change for the long term benefit of the business and all the stakeholders.
For some, a new approach will represent unwanted upheaval; others may fear for their jobs.
Even when change is designed to improve the organisational functions if this area of change management is not managed professionally throughout the process it will lead to resistance, non-commitment and ultimately the objective will never be fully realised.
It is imperative that you nominate someone who has the interpersonal skills to see the changes through to fruition, a leader charged with understanding the change fully, how it impacts on the business, the whole workforce and someone who is capable of communicating the message to the whole workforce to ensure everyone buys in to the plan.
The Change Agent
This is someone who understands the bigger picture and will ensure a smooth transition rather than managing crisis after crisis, someone who engenders trust and is trusted, people will need to have faith in this person. Fear and mistrust will be the main enemy of the change program.
The person will have many hats to wear during the transition but their focus will be on the people, their reactions to new ways of doing things and how it affects their department and job role.
Making Change Work
In an article in Harvard Business Review it was suggested that there were five key competences needed to effect successful change management.
- Demonstrating flexibility and resilience
- Recognising growth opportunities
- Striding for results
- Leading courageously
- Gaining buy-in
You should not take for granted that a change agent must be recruited, very often someone with those skills and knowledge of the business may be already on your payroll. Given that that this person has the skills it can be beneficial to the program having a familiar face delivering the message. However they should not be accepted as an "easy touch" they need to be disciplined and firm in their communication with staff.
Christopher Worsley, CEO of CITI Ltd talks about change agents as Transform leaders.
"These people are often regarded as the change agent as they embed behaviours into business-as-usual. They give others permission to stop and to alter what they have been doing, and to do new things with confidence. Without such leaders, successful change is unlikely to be sustained."
If you are introducing TQM or other major changes to your business are you confident that you have the right person. Does your change agent have all of the necessary attributes for the job?
If not, it might well be an expensive mistake.