According to Wikipedia, change management is a collective term for all approaches that help prepare and support individuals, teams, and organizations in making change.
Change management is a common term in leadership. It is essentially the ability of a leader to increase or maintain productivity within their teams during times of change. Naturally, people are resistant to change. Change can cause fear, discomfort, and a subsequent lack of motivation among those in an organization.
Change is essential for evolving organizations, especially with today’s technology. A company that is entirely resistant to change becomes irrelevant rather quickly based on the nature of competition and the inability to adapt to consumer needs. Therefore, change management has become a necessary process for organizations that wish to remain ahead of the curve.
The Nature of Change
Change is resisted due to ambiguity. The human mind greatly dislikes ambiguity. Ambiguity offers opportunities that can be both beneficial and harmful to our well-being or currently comfortable livelihood. Ultimately, a good leader takes into account the resistance of change and follows a method that overcomes this resistance.
Changes can be anything from a shift in goal-oriented focus to altered systems and anything outside or in between. With any amount of change, a considerable amount of effort must be put in to ensure that all affected people are aware, willing, and able to help incur the change and any possible side effects.
If people are unclear as to what the change entails, or how they can manage it, they are often less willing and able to cope with the altered state of the organization (or their part in it). Effectively communicating the change, and how it affects key drivers (or people) within the organization, makes any expectations and goals clear and allows the team to continue moving in the proper direction.
Statistics show that only a third of all companies communicate the challenges they face to internal teams and systems. Communicating these issues well is often the best way to gather thoughtful resources, knowledge, and buy-in from those who are willing to succeed.
Change is difficult for the following reasons:
1. Lack of Employee Acceptance
Employees are often predisposed to resist implementing the necessary changes required to compensate with new company practices/systems. This can cause delayed onset times, poorly prioritized activities, and decreased productivity. Ultimately, communication is the best way to increase the acceptance and willingness to change from employees. We will discuss how to do so in a later section!
2. Poor Communication
Poor communication can often be found at the heart of many issues, more so than only change management. However, when considering the ability of a company to effectively implement change, communication is the single most important aspect of cultivating better productivity and implementation. This occurs both ways. Leaders must be willing to communicate what is needed from team members, as well as nurture proper communication paths from the team members to management. Poor communication is costly and can result in decreased performance. For more on effective communication, click HERE!
3. No Commitment from Management
A lack of buy-in from management will trickle down the trail of suboordinates and make change increasingly difficult. A leader who does not share a common vision ceases to act as a leader at all. Only when those who are put in authoritative positions can understand the importance of change can they effectively communicate this importance to others. For a short blurb on “Commitment Vs. Compliance”, click HERE!
How To Implement Change
To effectively implement a change within your organization, you must follow some basic steps. I will discuss these basic steps in order of implementation and the ways in which you can maximize your team productivity through their usage.
Step 1: First comes the awareness of various issues within the organization that may require solutions. Only when you become aware of an issue can you hope to implement change to resolve it. Be sure to search for the true problems. When you come to the base of an issue, and are not only treating symptoms, you can effectively solve the issue (and related symptoms) with one fell swoop.
The solution will be issue-specific: One solution will not likely match every issue that arises within an organization. This is why consultants come from many backgrounds and concentrations! Once you have found a solution that is probable and relevant to a company issue, move onto the next step.
Step 2: Communicate the issue and solution clearly to the organizational leaders. Think of this step as a pre-run for analysis and possible adversity that may befall the implementation of a company change. Communication at this stage gives every team/division leader the ability to express concerns that can then be logically accepted or denied as plausible or implausible (based on the solution).
Notice that this communication starts at the top of the leadership spectrum and trickles down. In the same way that you wouldn’t wash a car from bottom to top, you wouldn’t want to discuss organization-wide change starting with employees who may not know how to effectively implement it.
Giving every person a way to express their concerns opens the door to effective communication and drives the problem-solving process that can aid in finding the optimum solution, and not only the first one. Doing so helps relieve fears, increases personal willingness to change, and expresses the importance of the required change to take place.
This effectively resolves the “No Commitment from Management” issue before a change is even underway! Have leaders communicate the same ways to their teams in order to increase buy-in from every organizational level. This may take time to accomplish, but will end up saving both time and confusion through common knowledge systems and employee motivation.
Step 3: Begin the implementation of company change (through your solution). Likely, with everyone on board and with an avenue to communicate and express issues, this change will occur more naturally than it has before. All people should have a clear idea of the importance of the change, the purpose of their work, and the expectations they must meet.
Those who are resistant to change often feel as though great consequences are to incur as a result. Although this cannot be denied based on the ambiguity present in change, it can be remedied by enforcing the expectations and importance of the change to organizational health. Leaders must lead by example and embrace change the way they would like their team too.
Step 4: Take consistent measurements and account for any quantifiable results in productivity or effectiveness. Ultimately, you want to be assured that the change you implemented among your teams is solving the issue from step 1. If not, there may be a bottleneck in communication, team productivity issues, or goal-setting that is straying the team away from their intended purpose.
Change requires team-commitment and altered actions. If any of these actions turn out to be non-beneficial to solving the original issue, they will have to be adjusted to do so. Consider a team that has just adopted brand new SOP’s (standard operating procedures), their new actions must be quantified against set goals that will help the team leader determine whether those actions are beneficial to the purpose of the change in the first place.
As a leader constantly ask yourself,
Why are we implementing this change?
Why is it important and pressing to do so?
What is expected of me and those in my team?
What is our contribution to the whole?
How can I relay the importance to my team?
How can I dismiss or resolve issues they have?
Asking these questions gives you leverage over the change and what may possibly go wrong (or right!) Preparation is the best way to ensure a secure and confident project.
Step 5: Reflect and adjust actions where necessary. Learn from mistakes, issues, and adversity in order to create a more cohesive and knowledgable team. Doing so gives you a chance to measure company culture with the newfound change in a way that you couldn’t do when solving the initial issue.
Be sure to communicate what goes wrong and right within your team, and resolve any conflicts or issues that are pressing. Keep morale high by enforcing participation and buy-in from team members. Adjust the best practices that are not moving the team in the right direction, and re-solidify the purpose of the change when necessary.
Ultimately, change management comes in all shapes and sizes. And every person who is affected by a company change is a participant in company growth as well. Ensuring that all people are performing their best and are knowledgeable of expectations will help change occur much more naturally.
It is the leader’s job to be accountable for team members and performance. If you use these skills, you will be able to implement change and resolve issues in a much more organic and productive way.
Check out this related article on change management with lot of great insights! Click HERE!