Last week we looked at some common myths surrounding change management that have the potential to derail the change effort. Organizational change often reminds me of the movie Jumanji that involves a supernatural boardgame that brings its jungle world to life and puts the actual players in jeopardy of being maimed, or perhaps worse yet, caught in the drama forever. Sound familiar? It’s a jungle out there, and if you want to avoid drama that could maim your change effort, not only do you need to dispel myths (last weeks post), but you also need to put solid game rules in place that will keep everyone on the same game board. Here are some suggestions to foster effective change:
1. Acknowledge The 300 Pound Gorilla In The Room
Don’t try and institute change covertly - silence, denial and mislabeling always make the situation worse. Call the gorilla, well… a gorilla – let your people know that there are uncomfortable changes taking place. Demonstrate your commitment by asking your opinion leaders for their ideas as to how to go about the change… and actually implement the best contributions. If you want your people to embrace change, they must have a chance to voice concerns and offer input. Effective change management includes listening carefully to concerns and fears – perceived, imagined, or legitimate – that could become barriers. Open communication provides valuable insight, letting you lay the foundations for effective change.
2. Provide Clear, Concise Communications
Even the most dedicated employees want to know how change will affect them personally. It is critical to provide clear and accurate information to the furthest extent possible. Whether they say it or not, people will naturally question:
- How the change will affect them
- What they will need to do differently
- If they will need additional skills to be successful… if so, how will they learn them?
- How they will know if the change is good for them
- If the change will affect their position. Will they be moved or eliminated?
Communicate openly. People can more easily accept change if they know what to expect. Managing expectations is tricky, but it’s vital to success. Make the case for change – provide a clear and convincing rationale for the change and support it with sound evidence. Let those affected know about the proposed change in advance. Advise everyone of the honest implications for individuals, teams, functions, and organizations.
3. Get People Involved In Change
Encourage your opinion leaders to understand and participate in the change to gain their support. If you can get your opinion leaders on board, chances are others will follow. Communicate the changes, and the anticipated benefits for your organization and for individuals, to team members, colleagues, and senior managers in order to gain both broad and deep support. Make every effort to let people know how the change will benefit them – everyone loves to know WIIFM (What’s in it for me). Provide people the opportunity to openly comment on the proposed change and help in the planning. It is absolutely critical that everyone knows and understands the importance of their role in the change. The more they understand and are included in change, the more they will own it!
4. Develop & Communicate A Detailed Plan:
At minimum, your plan should include 6 w’s :
- Why does change need to happen: What is the challenge or problem making change necessary
- What is the change that needs to happen: Announce the change itself, as well as the objectives of the change
- When will the change take place: Provide an anticipated timeline, including a starting point and finish-line
- How will the change happen: How will the change be implemented and monitored, how will resources be allocated, as well as how will people know that the change has been successful
- Where will the change take place: Be clear as to which functions, departments, organizations or campuses will be affected
- Who will be affected by the change: Detail who will be involved, or the process for choosing team members, and what the individual roles will be. Make sure that you brief everyone affected by the change on their role in the change process and the possible impact to their area, as well as all other critical roles. Consistently validate understanding and encourage them to ask questions.
The morale and productivity of the entire workforce can be destroyed if there is a lack of planning and communication on the part ill-equipped leaders. Even if you’re charismatic and have a knack for verbal delivery, communications can easily careen out of control and cause drama … or worse. To ensure consistency, leverage both verbal and written communications. People absorb and understand information in different ways. Verbal messages make the communications personable and believable, while written communications reinforce what you have said and ensures everyone has identical information. It presents irrefutable facts and allows time for reflection and preparation.
5. Keep It Positive
When change is not progressing the way you had envisioned, communicate the reasons and a plan of action for get things moving in the right direction in a way that maintains people’s morale and motivation. Someone usually resists change and causes drama, making life difficult for you and others. Negativism sabotages change acceptance. Identify those individuals not open to the change. Understand their concerns. Help them to see how the change will make their lives easier. If you can convert your greatest opponents into change evangelists, you may exceed your own expectations.
Change isn’t easy, but there’s no reason for a change effort to cause unnecessary drama if it is well planned and potential issues are proactively addressed. If you work alongside your people to meet practical, achievable goals, you are not likely to fail. By making change processes transparent, encouraging open dialogue, and being receptive to constructive criticism, you’ll help your people to accept change and will reap great rewards.
Are you doing everything you can to ensure change is successful in your organization?
Please engage the discussion and let us know how you manage change in your organization. Feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.comor by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.