Not many people like change, we like our routines and stability, they make us feel secure and enable us to plan ahead. Most people see change as a negative and it takes a real shift in thinking to see the positive. When change is proposed you can almost hear the collective groan, “if it ain’t broke why fix it?”
This presents problems with the management of change and why change must be managed very carefully. The strategy will, of course, depend on the scale of change proposed.
How do you start? A clear vision and a clear strategy is essential along with the ability to clearly convey both the vision and strategy. Make sure the push for change is not a knee-jerk reaction but a proactive response to market trends and developments.
The organisation’s culture will also determine how successful the need for change will be. If the culture thrives and grows the odds are in favour of success, if a culture is non-existent or poisonous that is what must be changed first.
Initially any discussion should be at a high level and a project team which includes key stakeholders. Discussions should be kept confidential to eliminate gossip and misinformation until a project plan is well defined. If the change effects a specific group more than others, they should be informed, at all levels, first to enable them to absorb the information before it goes public. Honestly and simply describing the areas which need to change and why, is a good start. Allowing free flowing questions is mandatory and answers should confirm the transparency of the plan, no hidden agendas allowed.
When presenting the case for change, the reality of the situation needs to be clearly stated. The reality may or may not be negative, change can also occur when an organisation is thriving. If the situation is negative then it will be obvious why change is definitely required. The viable future of the organisation should be shown based on successfully implementing the changes. A well-defined project plan must be presented with clear milestones and goals where everyone understands the role they must play.
The leaders of change along with key stakeholders and the “disciples” of change will have to work diligently to convey the message, promote positivity and diminish the negativity. In particular negativity needs to be addressed early on, if it is allowed to fester, the poison will spread. Problem solving must be a team effort this will always generate ownership and a feeling of belonging, a sense of contributing to the eventual success.
The message and reasons for change must be reinforced with regular meetings and an open-door policy for those leading the charge. Face-to-face meetings, broadcast emails at timely intervals announcing milestones reached and goals achieved with acknowledgments of key achievements will keep everyone on track.
Expect the unexpected. “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”. Always have a plan B, allow for contingencies, this is a given for a well-defined project plan. Continual assessment is necessary and should be a regular task of the plan and the assessment should not be done by the same individuals at the risk of becoming blinkered. Flexibility and creativity are great assets to have within any project team to quickly come up with solutions to cater for problems and the unexpected.
Don’t forget the individual, people matter and they are an organisation’s most important resource. Emotions can and will run high during periods of change, normally rational people can be all gloom and doom, the quiet mouse could become the extroverted advocate. Recognising differences and embracing them, rather than dismissing them will lead to success.
Change is a chance to evolve and as John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”.