Change can be a frightening experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Many entrepreneurial companies and individuals seemingly thrive on change and disruption.
Look no further than some of the world’s biggest and most well-known names like AirBnB, Netflix, and Apple. Such companies blossomed and flourished simply by doing business differently than their competitors.
But as prominent as these examples are, successful change doesn’t always need to result in a groundbreaking, disruptive corporation. Successful change can occur at a team level, and all that needs to occur is a positive increase in productivity and efficiency.
By definition, change management is simply the systematic planning, execution, and controlled implementation of an organizational evolution. It can be a redefined process, an optimized workflow, the introduction of new software, or some combination of everything.
Legal’s Relationship with Change
Here are some common business situations that demand change management:
Technology implementation (or migration)
Evolving market conditions
Mergers and acquisitions
Product / service / software launches
At first glance, it might seem that Legal has little reason to get involved in any of these cases, with the exception of mergers and acquisitions. However, a closer look at each one reveals that Legal will have to be closely involved in each situation.
Consider software launches – different countries maintain different requirements when it comes to data storage, billing, and user licenses. In the case of data storage, Legal has to provide counsel on how to remain compliant with various regulations, such as the EU’s GDPR policy or California’s new CCPA. Failure to abide by them could trigger massive fines.
The easiest way to involve Legal early on is to implement a “privacy by design” approach that includes Legal in the initial stages of product design and development. By doing so, Legal will be able to provide counsel much sooner, allowing development teams to build in the necessary data protections without having to double back later.
The risk of fines and other negative consequences is why Legal has to work towards modernizing its practices and scaling its activities. But to ensure greater chances of success, a change management plan is required.
The next step is to share your vision of what the change will look like while demonstrating confidence in navigating uncertainty and apprehension. In a sense, when galvanizing change, you’re answering the who of the change.
Since people are naturally averse to change, you must be crystal clear with your message. The more honest and open you are, the more likely it is that your team will trust and buy in to your plan.
Here are some steps you can take to pitch your plan of action: Build a case for change (include principles, proof of concept, value proposition)
Develop a detailed communication plan
Take ownership of the change (don’t be too “big picture”)
Emphasize the pros
Assemble a squad to manage the change
Conduct a stakeholder analysis
Establish a change management council
Map out your goals for the change
Create new leaders
Overcommunicate (don’t undercommunicate)
Encourage others to voice their opinions
Bolster spirits and morale if they start to flag
While each of these steps is important for mobilizing the entire organization, the most essential takeaway is the critical importance of communicating again and again and again and again.
Thanks to the bonds of trust that will be forged by honest communication, many of the bumps in the road that can appear will be more readily smoothed out.
Making Change Happen
You’ve established the importance of the change, and you’ve mobilized your organization to implement your plan of action. Now it’s time for you to take the change and make the change happen.
This requires you to answer the how of the change while taking into account the when. You have to address matters like how to develop your change management framework while staying under budget, how to mitigate risk, and how to generate (and maintain) momentum).
Here are some steps that will help you make your change happen:
Start designing a strategy
Create a timeline
Add as many specifics as possible
Make sure the budget exists
Incorporate culture and values
Determine how legal technology (such as CLM software) can support your efforts
Calculate next-generation needs
Assert control of your contracting processes
Outline the steps for data migration
Keep vendors in the loop
Develop training programs
Prepare for the unexpected
Leave room for adjustments
Keep in mind that assistance is available
It’s impossible to plan for everything that can potentially occur, but by carefully elaborating the answers to who, when, and how of your change, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected and unplanned situations.
Change is an inevitable stage in the life of every business, department, and team, but well-planned, thought-out change can treat pain points while guiding your organization to the next level.
However, change that throws your organization off-balance or that hinders productivity is undesired. Successful change must rest on a foundation supported by the three pillars of every organization – their people, their processes, and their technology. The end result should see people buying in, processes facilitating work, and technology driving work.
The steps we provided here and in our earlier post are just a glimpse of what is required for successful change management. For a deeper look, get our Change Management Checklist for corporate legal teams.
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