GTP21: Change with people – a three step guide

Delta Swan Limited

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2021 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2021 this involves 8 free online workshops taking place throughout March, and a virtual Growth Through People conference on 30th March. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Aston University, BMet College and the University of Birmingham’s Work Inclusivity Research Centre - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

Growth has one outstanding feature – it always involves change. While business leaders have a clear path, goals and rationale for the change, our people may not share our enthusiasm.

To be successful in change we must engage our people. Overcoming resistance may be reason enough, but to be honest, I like to remind leaders of the advantages of listening to the risks and opportunities raised when we engage people in the planning and delivery of change.

Anyone who has moved office, set up a new factory or implemented a new IT system knows the devil is in the detail. It’s tempting to believe your project team knows enough, but until you have worked in an office or factory or used the current IT you don’t know of the frustrations, work arounds and rework necessary to delight customers and turn a profit. The people with their eyes on those details are also the people most likely to feel undervalued or threatened by the change you propose.

Early, genuine engagement has another advantage it speeds up change. Yes, you heard it here. Putting time aside to listen and respond to your staff doesn’t add to the timescales, it reduces time and costs by avoiding errors and changes in specification. And it takes just three simple steps.

Share the vision

Given that every three-step process starts here, you may feel justified in rolling your eyes. But if you can’t express your vision for the business, you can’t bring your people with you. Start simple, talk with your peers and develop ways of saying why, how and when the change will happen. Recognise the disruption the change will cause.

Don’t wordsmith, keep your message simple and natural and avoid jargon. Take the story wider and wider until everyone affected by the change has heard it from you.

Share doesn’t mean tell. Give everyone a stake in the vision. Ask them what it would mean to them and listen to the positive and negative responses. The former are great communications, the latter must go in your risk register.

Plan collaboratively

Don’t let the project team go away and plan. Instead plan with the people affected and trust them to deliver your goals. They know the busiest days of the week, who feels a draught, which machine hates being moved and what your customers value.

Planning is much more than a schedule, listen to the people who have been here before, they know the risks involved in change. As change leaders our job is to listen.


If you can pilot the change, you can learn lessons. If you can roll-out in phases so you can make each change better than the last. Avoid a ‘big bang’ transformation if you can and keep listening to your people. They see the truth of change more clearly than people who will move on when the change seems complete.

Michelle Spaul

Delta Swan Limited