Change is inevitable, even the laws of science state that chemical elements aren’t static, everything is in a state of change. We can observe change all around us – changing political leaders, referendums like Brexit, climate change and organizational change such as: corporate mergers, redundancies, process re-engineering, embracing new technology; and developing new products and services to retain or grow market share. It’s often said that the pace (and frequency) of change is increasing too, as organisations try to survive and thrive in today’s global marketplace. Change is indeed very necessary.
People – harnessing your most important asset!
Organizational change impacts how employees do their work, and usually change cannot be successfully implemented without employee cooperation. Therein lays the problem! People can be unpredictable, and typically don’t like change; they often resist it. Furthermore, an organization’s employees are often lauded as its greatest asset. If that’s true doesn’t it make sense to look after them and help them through a change initiative?
There is a difference between the change process itself and the personal transition that the people will have to make. Employees will each respond differently to a change initiative and experience a different ‘journey’. Some may see a change as a small blip in the road, or even an opportunity, whereas others may be angry that it’s happening, or entrenched in denial that it even needs to happen. Individual reactions depend on many factors, including how the change is handled and communicated by their management, what’s happening in their personal lives, what motivates them as individuals, their personality type, and what they have to gain or lose from the initiative. It can be quite a threatening time for employees.
To successfully implement a change initiative employees will need to change what they do and often their behaviours too. They in fact need to ‘buy-in’ to the change.
The managers who have to help roll out the change are likely to need support too, and even training in how to handle the change and what to expect. Their teams may appear to be blaming them for the change, they will need to be able to answer questions about the initiative and be able to support their staff. A line manager who is not ‘bought in’ to the change themselves can of course do significant damage to the initiative.
Learn from Experience!
Because change is so prevalent, there is a wealth of experience, studies and theories on change. Knowledge of these can help you successfully implement your change. Research by specialist consultants like Prosci, shows that the biggest single factor in making a change initiative successful and for organisations to achieve their required return on investment, is to ensure they employ effective change management, and don’t just leave things to chance.
Without experience or knowledge of change management theories and practices there is a danger of the following happening:
- Individuals ‘get stuck’ in different stages of the change-curve (as identified by Elizabeth Kubler Ross)
- Line / managers (and even potentially the change team) feel unsupported and the change may peter-out
- Messages from different levels of management are in-consistent and the vision isn’t clear or engaging
- A one-size fits all approach is used that doesn’t cater for different stakeholder needs
- An increased likelihood of some stakeholders being over-looked
- Communications are in-effective and feedback isn’t sought or acted upon
- No-one knows where to go for further information or how to get involved if they wanted to
And most importantly:
- The hoped for results and return on investment from the initiative isn’t achieved
Learning about change management should enable you to address these issues and more. It should help you to better plan your change initiatives, so that you take account of what else is going on in the organization to avoid ‘initiative fatigue’. You properly take account of all of your stakeholders, and even encourage buy-in by giving them a part in the change rather than they feel it is something that is ‘being done’ to them. You take steps to understand and work with the organisation’s prevailing culture rather than against it. Put simply, knowledge of change management should help you reduce the risk of being too mechanistic and ignoring the crucial people side of change!