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Ambitious small businesses can be exciting and dynamic environments, full of energy and hope. However, problems can arise when a sudden change in business direction occurs –usually due to some external market factor – and the business is forced to deviate from its original course – a course to which the whole team was seriously committed.

This sharp change in direction can be painful for team members who had invested everything in your vision, only to have the rug pulled out from under them. Some may adapt to the new course quite quickly, but others will find it disorienting. Some employees may even actively resist the change. If you try to force the change through regards of protests from the team, you may alienate a lot of your employees.

The good news is that many companies – including giants like Starbucks, Nintendo, and Instagram – have successfully made massive strategic course changes (or “pivots”) without alienating their team members in the process.

And you can do it too – as long as you adopt the following change-management techniques:

1. Develop a Plan With Clear Goals and Targets

While a clear vision, some rousing speeches, and a lot of team-building events are all crucial to a successful business transformation, research from McKinsey & Company shows that planning is the real key. According to the survey, about 75 percent of companies that were extremely successful with their business transformation initiatives “broke down the process of the transformation into specific, clearly defined initiatives.”

Muddling through your commercial transformation on a day-by-day basis is not an option. If you really want to make a seamless change, you’ll need to view the pivot as a project. Identify all the key tasks that go into making that project successful, assign these tasks to team members, set goals and deadlines, and monitor progress. It may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but meticulous planning and goal-setting will lead to the sort of flawless execution that your business transformation requires.

Plus, a clearly defined and communicated plan means employees won’t be blindsided by the change. In fact, once they learn of their roles on the pivoting process, they may become even more invested in the company than they were before.

2. Involve Your Employees in the Change

MarkersMcKinsey also found that, when frontline staff members – those most affected by company changes – feel a sense of ownership in the pivoting process, change initiatives are much more likely to succeed.

In practice, this means you’ll need to give employees a stake on the process. Allow them to be heavily involved in all aspects of the pivoting project. Put them in charge of critical projects, give them stock options, outline their new roles in the organization’s new direction, and so on.

If you fail to do this, employees will feel like change is happening to them, and that may drive many staff members to struggle against the change. Negativity and disengagement will follow, and it won’t matter how much planning you did: Your transformation process will fall to pieces as long as your employees don’t support it.

3. Promote the Positive

Positive thinking brings benefits in most areas of business, but it is especially beneficial in change projects. The McKinsey research found that the most successful business transformations focused not only on why the change was needed, but also on the benefits that would come as a result of the change.

I you are looking to pivot your business, it’s important that you are constantly explaining the benefits that the pivoting will bring. These could be increased profits, more interesting work, bigger training budgets, international travel opportunities, or whatever it is that the company’s new direction will bring.

It’s vital that you work to maintain a positive mindset in your team members from the very beginning by accentuating the advantages and benefits of the change. Don’t just tell your team members that the company has to change to survive – tell them what this new method of survival will do for them.

The need for change comes to all businesses big and small. Businesses that can effectively make the necessary changes will gain an edge over the competition. But effective change can only be made if employees are on board with it. Be sure you approach any and all pivoting projects with an eye on making your employees feel excited about the change, rather than opposed to it.



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