Thursday, July 23, 2015

Five Principles to Manage Changes

The spirit of change comes from the top.

There are many reasons for changes, and perhaps, even more, reasons for resistance to changes as well: It may be a shift in power, a need to learn new skills, to manage a different team, to adopt the new way (mindset, methodology or process, etc) to do things etc. What’re the psychology behind the change? What would be a good way to empower change capabilities? And what are the principles to manage change, not as a one-time project, but as an ongoing capability?

Change Management Principle #1: Reduce anxiety to increase adaptation.  It can be puzzling, particularly when you know the individual or group of people have the skills, knowledge and experience to make a change and yet they resist. Is a lack of real consultation, communication, and involvement in the process, is it personalities or a worry that any resulting restructure will result in a less favorable position or redundancy. While there are a few adventurous, novelty-seeking souls who enjoy constant change, the majority of people are wary of the 'new'. In business, the 'new' is often costly in terms of effort, time, money, and even physical discomfort; the way to deal with these people who say "no" really depends on each individual case - there is usually a reason (objective or subjective) for the push-back. So in order to reduce anxiety to increase adaptation, you need to a) explain clearly what are the benefits and what are problems if change doesn't happen, b) engage them, let them know what is at stake, what is their "piece" of the cake, but also inform them clearly if they don't cooperate them might end up with nothing, c) engage your change agents (from the change supporters crowds) to exercise some additional push trying to convince change resistants, d) give them time to think, compare, analyze and decide what level they would cooperate, e) if they still resist to change, isolate them from the project / department influence and benefits, f) if they still resist and impact negatively on the others who support changes, then remove them.

Change Management Principles #2: Respect their opinions and point of view: Resistance can often be tempered by information - resistance is often based on misinformation. Involve people in the process and ask for their input on how it could be improved. Listen to their suggestions and wherever possible, incorporate these in the plan. Communicate carefully the reasons for the change and be honest about the impact - positive & negative - on them as individuals. Ask them to suggest ways by which they could help. This way, whilst they may still not like it, they have been communicated to, consulted, listened to and had the opportunity to improve the plan. As a manager, you have to understand the human psychology to help people become more successful in their roles by helping and supporting them in overcoming the friction to changes, and this must be done with understanding and sensitivity, the employees must understand any honest/candid disclosure will not be used against them. It must be remembered the goal is to solely help them become more effective, not to find flaws in their work or character. Experienced staff is hard to come by and hold a lot of departmental wisdom, so know your staff, spend time with them, use change champions to drive the change in the workplace.

Change Management Principle #3: The spirit of change comes from the top: Change must be embraced by the leadership in a company and messages from the Leadership should be distributed company-wide, not just through supervisory level personnel. There should be no opportunity for misinterpretation of the goals of "the company" and that support is needed and expected by all. Clear goals and the plan for achieving them is all part of 'Change Management." If it's a 'surprise' to the staffers, don't be surprised if they don't support. Instead, leadership should inspire them through the change process to the top of the hill. The 'CAVE DWELLERS' will catch on fast that their negativity will not be helping anyone in the journey. Only top leaders become the change agent, they can walk the talk and exemplify the changeable mind and good behaviors, to lead changes more smoothly. So, get on board, grab hands and we all make it up the hill. If you keep dragging your feet you may lose your grip on things and fall off the mountain.

Change Management Principle #4: Clarify the Agreement with Alignment. Often change initiatives include plenty of disagreement, but within a shared goal, and unless someone was taking up the position just to oppose, the most creative and brilliant ideas came out of that as well as actual follow-through. Both the “Naysayers” and “Yay sayers” are equally dangerous when it comes to deep and far-reaching change. How you create an authentic context that allows for agreement and disagreement to work equally towards the desired result is the question. Naysayers or skeptics have a valuable point of view about the change that needs to be listened to and considered. This feedback can be very important in shaping the change effort to increase its success. Resistance is not only opposition to something but is also an "attraction" or a strong connection to something that is viewed as being lost or minimized by the change. The perceived value of the change is less than that of the status quo. Take the time to learn what the "resistors" may be more attracted to rather than viewing them as opposing things. What we term resistance is not always effectively managed by increasing the force of the "push" against them, but also by increasing the "pull" with a compelling future that resonates with their interest/needs and goals. It’s never been able to create a large enough context of alignment unless each individual first experiences genuine alignment between their personal aims and the organizational ones. ACCEPTANCE, not just ALIGNMENT, should be shared, letting them know when the train leaves the station.

Change Management Principle #5: Following the logical scenario for Change Management: It’s best to go for involvement in buy-in. Focus on those that are supportive and give the laggards every opportunity to join in, but do not put your attention on those that resist. Eventually, the gap between the behavior of the resistors and the adaptors will be too great for them and they will feel the pressure to join in or leave. And this way your change initiative moves forward in the direction you need it. If communication and preparation regarding the change included discussion of the external drivers causing the change and everyone deals in reality, then making everyone 'comfortable' is not the objective. But management does need to make them safe to take the risk of change. A quick evaluation of their circumstances should identify risks to their safety. If there is a legitimate issue;  they do not have the skills to meet the risk, or are in the line of being blamed for a bad outcome, then it needs to be addressed first. Inherent in any change is a risk and many organizations believe employees must be comfortable and this is a disservice. Keeping a clear vision through the difficult moments of change is extremely challenging. It sometimes seems easier and less time-consuming to just “impose” a decision in a “like it or lump it way,” on communication to break down mistrust, resentment, insecurity. It's easy to see success where new working practices, systems, and action plans are concerned. It's the essential and fundamental change that transforms the organization at the level of a more positive culture, staff well-being and their loyalty towards its management that is far harder. Not least because even with the accepted measures of culture change, you are dealing with a time lapse from the point of change to manifesting it 'in the whole.' And in fact, things may appear to get worse before they get better, all of which needs explaining up-front. If you just change the form and not the essence, the form will sooner or later revert back to (or close to) its original condition. Even with the most compelling change plan, it is first about raising the consciousness of the managers and leaders - to help them be more in touch with their personal experience of what is really going on and connect more with their own values that they may or may not be supporting, and then they are more able to enrol others in better expressing their values and transforming their personal experience day to day. Follow the logic scenario to manage changes:
  • Different teams to assess and identify the needs or reasons for the change.
  • The teams’ change identification needs in the “transformation” of vision or message.
  • Hold regular meetings to set goals together and monitor implementation
  • Engage them in the change team where possible to improve their participation.
  • Set rewards and incentives for positive change attitude.
  • The impact of any software system or process changes by making it “more “humane” and user-friendly.
  • Training needs and responds to these needs

Change Management has a very wide scope and is a relatively new area of expertise. It needs to focus on coordination and facilitation, not bullying and forcing, follow the right set of principles and take the best practices. The speed of change is increasing, therefore, the change capability needs to be cultivated, not for its own sake, but for improving organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and agility. "In any given moment we have the choice, to step forward into growth or step back into comfort"- A. Maslow


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