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Navigating Change Management: A Guide for Aspiring CFOs

finance leadership relationships strategy May 24, 2024

Change is an inevitable part of any business, especially in the fast-paced world of start-ups and scale-ups. As an aspiring CFO, understanding and having the skills to implement a change management process is essential for strategic leadership.

Successfully managing change not only helps your organisation change smoothly but also enhances your leadership skills.

Understanding the Change Management Process

Change management involves a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations from a current state to a desired future state.

It’s about managing change effectively to achieve lasting benefits.

I have found that encouraging teams within a start-up to be quite up for change - however the bigger the company (scale-up onwards) and the longer term a team has been working for the company, the harder to change.

Whether it's a new process, an automation or dealing with a new team member - all these changes that you want to implement can take longer to get the people onboard

Preparation: Setting the Stage for Change The first step in managing change is preparing your organisation (which involves a huge amount of communication!).

This involves identifying the need for change, defining the desired outcome, and assessing the impact on the business. Effective preparation includes:

  • Communicating the Vision: Clearly describe why the change is necessary and how it aligns with the organisation’s strategic goals. It's also worthwhile clearly stating why this change is better for not just the company, but also the teams impacted and also where relevant the individual.  This helps in getting buy-in from those affected.
  • Building a Change Management Team: Ideally you want to put together a project team who is going to implement the change.  Ideally you want some of the team to be the people who are going to be impacted the most, so they can add in any nuances that you didn't cover and also hopefully be your best advocates.
  • Assessing Readiness: Look at how ready the company is for this particular change.  This is the perfect time to work out if there are any barriers or blockers and see if these can be rectified or mitigated against.  It's also worthwhile looking at ongoing support required here.

Planning: Charting the Course Once the initial planning has been completed, the next step is to develop a detailed change management plan. This plan should outline the steps needed to achieve the desired change, including:

  • Defining Objectives and Goals: Set clear, measurable objectives that align with the overall goal.  This helps not only the business but you as the leader to stay on course.  Ideally you want all actions or adjustments along the way to be aligned with these objectives.
  • Developing a Communication Plan: Create a strategy for communicating the change to all stakeholders, ensuring transparency and addressing concerns.  I cannot stress enough how much communication is warranted for change - particular big changes like M&A.  You cannot over-communicate.  
  • Training and Support: Plan for the training and resources needed to support employees through the transition.  This will also help address any nervousness or concerns with specific employees.

Implementation: Making the Change Happen Implementation is where the plan is put into action. This involves:

  • Executing the Plan: Follow the steps outlined in the change management plan, ensuring all actions are aligned with the objectives.  
  • Monitoring Progress: Track the progress of the change, using key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success.  However, be flexible - you don't want to cause unnecessary stress here.
  • Addressing Challenges: Be prepared to handle obstacles and resistance. Flexibility and problem-solving skills are crucial in this stage.  Continue communicating at all stages and keep the communication channels open.  You may need to listen to people's concerns and address them if needed or they may just want to complain and have someone listen to their worries.  

Sustainment: Ensuring Long-Term Success The final stage of the change management process is about ensuring the change is sustainable. This involves:

  • Embedding the Change: Integrate the changes into the organisational culture and daily operations.  This can take many months - so be aware that once a change has been implemented, the communication doesn't then just stop.  If it does, you can almost be sure that the change won't be a success.
  • Continuous Improvement: Regularly review the change process and make adjustments as needed to ensure long-term success.
  • Celebrating Success: Recognise and celebrate the achievements, reinforcing the positive impact of the change.  Particularly with the original change management team, but also the team that has had to make the change.  Recognise both groups at an All Hands - or even just an email to the entire business.  


Leadership Skills in Change Management

Effective change management requires strong strategic leadership and a specific set of CFO skills. Here are key leadership skills essential for managing change:

  1.  Visionary thinking
  2. Communication (more than anything!)
  3. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence (you're dealing with people, not software)
  4. Adaptability
  5. Decision making
  6. Collaboration


Change management is a critical aspect of strategic leadership, especially for new or aspiring CFOs. By mastering the change management process and honing your leadership skills, you can ensure your organisation goes through change effectively, ensuring long-term success.

Managing change is not just about following a process; it’s about leading with vision, empathy, and resilience.

Looking to advance and quicken your finance career? Follow the steps in our Framework below:

    1. Sign up to our next workshop.
    2. Work with me in the Financial Leadership Foundations course  that includes monthly Q&A sessions where we can discuss all of your questions and how to apply your learnings to your current role. 
    3. Download the Upgrade your Management accounts course to showcase your skills as a finance leader to the Founder, leadership team and the Board.


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