Change Management

Change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people normally problems arise. Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. These aspects are especially relevant to managing personal change. Before starting organizational change, ask yourself: What do we want to achieve with this change, why, and how will we know that the change has been achieved? Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it? How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with? These aspects also relate strongly to the management of personal as well as organizational change.

Do not ‘sell’ change to people as a way of accelerating ‘agreement’ and implementation. ‘Selling’ change to people is not a sustainable strategy for success, unless your aim is to be bitten on the bum at some time in the future when you least expect it. When people listen to a management high-up ‘selling’ them a change, decent diligent folk will generally smile and appear to accede, but quietly to themselves, they’re thinking, “No bloody chance mate, if you think I’m standing for that load of old bollocks you’ve another think coming…” (And that’s just the amenable types – the other more recalcitrant types will be well on the way to making their own particular transition from gamekeepers to poachers.)

Instead, change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with it. Change can be unsettling, so the manager logically needs to be a settling influence.

Change Must Involve the People – Change Must not Be Imposed Upon the People

Whenever an organization imposes new things on people there will be difficulties. Participation, involvement and open, early, full communication are the important factors.

Workshops are very useful processes to develop collective understanding, approaches, policies, methods, systems, ideas, etc.

Staff surveys are a helpful way to repair damage and mistrust among staff – provided you allow allow people to complete them anonymously, and provided you publish and act on the findings.

Management training, empathy and facilitative capability are priority areas – managers are crucial to the change process – they must enable and facilitate, not merely convey and implement policy from above, which does not work.

You cannot impose change – people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers, and tolerance and compassion from the leaders and executives. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than clever process and policy. Employees need to be able to trust the organization.

The leader must agree and work with these ideas, or change is likely to be very painful, and the best people will be lost in the process.

John P Kotter’s ‘Eight Steps to Successful Change’

American John P Kotter (b 1947) is a Harvard Business School professor and leading thinker and author on organizational change management.

Kotter’s eight step change model can be summarised as:

  • Increase urgency – inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  • Build the guiding team – get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  • Get the vision right – get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  • Communicate for buy-in – Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.
  • Empower action – Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognise progress and achievements.
  • Create short-term wins – Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  • Don’t let up – Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
  • Make change stick – Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.
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