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Change Management | Insight Edge
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You Want to do What? Change Doesn’t Have to be Hard…

Posted by admin on January 11, 2013 under Change Management, Leadership, Operational Performance | Be the First to Comment

There is a lot of literature on the topic of change, and managing change, which implies change is “hard” or even “bad”. Think about it though - change in and of itself is not good or bad. In fact, change is necessary to our very existence – from the air we breathe, to the change and renewal of the cells in our bodies. Without change, we would stagnate – not a pretty sight!

What makes change difficult is resistance. Whether it’s personal change needed based on feedback from others (think of feedback from your doctor about potential health risks and the behavior modifications required to minimize or eliminate the risk), or organizational change (based on market conditions, competitor moves or financial challenges). As the Borgs, from the Star Trek series, say “Resistance is futile” – and probably damaging, too.

So, how can we better facilitate change? In organizations, leadership plays a key role in the ease of change. Bear in mind, though, leadership doesn’t necessarily refer only to formal “leaders” (management), but to informal leaders as well – those who have influence over or are respected by others. That means anyone can be a leader of change in their own spheres of influence.

There are several key concepts and strategies for successfully facilitating change – whether for ourselves, or in our work environments:

Recognize change is necessary
At a minimum, acknowledging the fact that change is necessary is crucial, but change (and the effort it will entail) will be even more palatable if we recognize that it can actually be beneficial. Change is the expression of our creativity and innovation, and the realization of growth and improvement in problem solving, developing new products or services, or envisioning a different future for ourselves. If we can’t even acknowledge that things should be different, we’re destined for more of the same at best, or more likely worsening conditions and the changing world leaves us behind. Without recognizing the necessity of change, nothing else matters.

Communicate broadly and clearly
Once a change in direction has been determined, it is critical to communicate the decision clearly and broadly to an organization. Just raising the topic of change triggers all kinds of emotions in employees – “Will I lose my job?” “How will it impact me?” “I won’t have the skills needed for this.” Forthrightness is needed in addressing these often unspoken questions, and the greater the quantity questions which are addressed, the less threatening the change will be. The important messages to convey are the reason for the change, and how it will impact employees and other stakeholders. Focus on how things will be better once the change process is completed. Even if there is bad news to convey, communicating openly and with honesty will go a long way toward alleviating fear.

Additionally, regular communication throughout the change process will contribute to allaying any continued fears of employees. Fears and questions are not an issue only at the outset of a change initiative – they crop up regularly through the entire process. This is true particularly if there are changes in staffing levels. Don’t forget those employees retained in an organization staffing reduction will have fears of their own – they will fear the increased workload, if nothing else, when there are fewer resources planned. We all know the amount of work to be done will never be reduced in proportion to reduced resource levels!

Use champions
In every organization, there are people who can influence others. Seek out those people who embrace the changes being made, and encourage them to “champion the cause”. They can informally respond to questions or concerns, point out the positive results which can occur, and even show individuals where opportunities may lie. Choose enthusiastic, energetic evangelists and feed them often with news and information.

Include all stakeholders
Remember, it might not just be organizational personnel who are impacted by the change. Consider the impacts to your vendors, suppliers, customers, investors, and any others who might be impacted or interested in what is happening. Often, these other constituents have ideas or resources which will be useful to the change process itself. Yu owe it to them and your relationship to include these parties in the dialogue.

Request feedback
Throughout any change process, feedback should be solicited from all stakeholders, and addressed. People need to know not only that they are being heard, but they are also being listened to – there is a difference! Hearing and responding to feedback communicates the message that all ideas, input and concerns are valid and/or potentially viable. In addition to generating “buy-in” from employees and others, ideas and suggestions from those outside the immediate change management team may offer sound ideas leading to greater innovation or increased capabilities.

Pay attention to the naysayers
In every change effort, there will be those who are skeptical of the initiative, or downright oppose it. A savvy leader, however, listens to the critics for elements of truth. The negative feedback you receive should be evaluated for concerns which might not have been addressed or considered. Further, it’s likely that if one brave soul voices negative feelings, others are certainly feeling them, too, so these thoughts are worthy of consideration and resolution. In fact, think about it as your own informal risk identification alert system! If the concerns are credible at all, there are obviously some risks which have not been sufficiently addressed. These should be considered and mitigated as appropriate.

As you think about the coming year, changes are inevitable. The question is – how will you respond to them? Are you embracing the possibilities? Or resisting?