Understanding Change Management: The Journey from Startups to Established Organisations 

The Atom Team

In every organisation, whether a startup or a fully-fledged corporation, change is a constant subject. New targets need to be set and reached, fresh ideas are continually being implemented and the organisation as a whole must adapt to survive against ever-changing market forces. The change management concept is a critical but often overlooked aspect in both new and established businesses.

Understanding Change Management

Change management can be described as an outcome that is different from the current way of working. However, there isn’t a universal definition that suits every kind of situation, making it a topic that requires considerable thought within different contexts. 

Notably, change management has been the subject of several theories and methodologies throughout its development. However according to Ian Sutherland in Atom CTO’s latest podcast, the best formula for change is the Gleicher formula.  This formula states that change occurs best when there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, a clear vision for the desired outcome and the first steps to enact that change are clearly defined and those three things outweigh the resistance to change.. .

Early on in business development, change is often driven by the founders, who have the most at stake. They are the ones usually dissatisfied with the current state or the anticipated state of affairs if no changes are made. However, in more established companies, the department or team that stands to lose the most if no change occurs may be the driving force.

Change Management in startups

In startups, change is more frequent and often profound. startups are small and by their nature, built to be flexible and agile. A new company might start with an idea and then transform dramatically within the first year based on market feedback. This feedback often defines the product or service offered, signifying a momentous change in the business’s direction.

While this change happens organically, it still should be handled deliberately. The need for change should be identified, and someone should be chosen to manage and drive the change. For startups, this responsibility typically falls on the shoulders of the founder or founders. 

Understanding the critical elements of change management for new businesses involves understanding the company’s vision, goals and expected outcomes. Before any changes are made, validation needs to be done with an open and honest assessment of the likelihood of those outcomes. A robust story or vision needs to be developed and communicated to drive the change process. 

Change Management in Larger Companies

In larger, more established organisations, change management typically strays more towards the technical side of operations. This is because there is often complexity involved in altering machinery, software, or systems, making it a very specialised area requiring expert knowledge. 

However, resistance to change also becomes more pronounced as organisations grow. This resistance can come from the workforce and management teams. Proponents for change must therefore carefully gauge potential resistance and plan for it carefully. Resistance can stem from the prospect of job loss, role change, or fear of the unknown. 

The Change Management Blueprint

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint for change management, there are fundamental factors that one should consider. First, the dissatisfaction that’s prompting the change needs to be identified and measured. Next, a clear and achievable vision needs to be developed for what the post-change future looks like. 

Then, the first tangible steps towards the desired change should be listed and prioritised. Finally, potential resistance should be anticipated and a strategy should be put in place to lessen the impact of this resistance. Being prepared on all four of these fronts will ensure that an organisation is better prepared to manage the changes it is facing. 

Whether in a startup or an established organisation, being able to manage change is a crucial determinant of success. An in-depth understanding and practical application of change management leads to better outcomes during transitional periods, making it a crucial facet in any business.

Flexibility in Change Management

Realising the dynamism of the corporate world is an essential part of understanding change management. Even when organisations do everything correctly, sometimes the world around them changes, necessitating an alteration in the course of action. 

Outside forces which impact a business to change could anything from pandemics to economic fluctuations or even viral social trends.

How organisations interpret and address these changes matters greatly. Instead of uprooting the existing foundation, firms should focus on appreciating the shifts and modify their frameworks accordingly. 

Contrary to popular belief, change management doesn’t have to follow an industrial mindset i.e., it doesn’t have to rely purely on standardisation, documentation, and measurement. Because the implication of changes varies based on organisations, their cultures, and the individuals within, a one-size-fits-all approach fails to bear fruit.

You can listen to the full podcast between Ian Sutherland and Bhairav here.

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