Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Change is as Good as a Holiday

Frankly, I'd prefer to take the holiday, if that's okay with everyone. Why? Because organisational change, when it's mishandled, is a painful experience for all concerned.

I can say that with a fair degree of confidence. I've been subjected to changes, both good and bad. Now, managing change is my career. I've been managing various aspects of organisational change for years, and now I'm bringing it all together as a specialist change manager.

Unfortunately, that just makes me even more aware of when the change process is handled poorly. By the way, it's usually handled poorly.

So what are we talking about when we refer to organisational change? Its the stuff that happens in organisations - corporations, governments, departments, clubs, schools, hospitals, shops - when a change occurs. It could be a new law or policy that means you have change your record keeping processes, or your business might be moving offices, or introducing new computer software. It could be a merger or restructure or a round of redundancies.

Change Management is about people and making sure that they're okay. It's about helping through change by understanding their fears, their limits, their barriers, by communicating well and by preparing everyone for life after change.

It's pretty simple, when you think about it. I mean that literally. Think.

What  is so hard about communicating? Some businesses have teams of people to "communicate", but they still get it wrong. There's a difference between telling people what you want them to know, and telling them what they need to know. 

Work with people to reduce their fears, bring them along with you so that they share the journey and become part of the change, rather than a victim of it. Make sure they know why the change is being made; stay focused on benefits because that's the whole point.

People don't like change, but they do like to be part of a team, to be "in the know", to have their say and be heard. Make sure to include people who most vehemently oppose the change; they have a perspective you need!

What else o people like? They like to succeed. Sounds obvious, but in a changing environment, it can be hard for some. It's almost impossible to be confident about something new, but being prepared helps! Just get the testing right to make sure that whatever the new thing is, it works. Then, train your team so that they know what to do. Confidence (and competence) will return, but at least for now, give these people your support.

While you're there, share some trust. Let people get on with the job. If you've prepared the way, kept the info coming, tested and trained, life should go on. Just in case there are problems, make sure there's an alternative, a backup plan and a support team. Be prepared.
Change is part of doing business now: Challenge the status quo, practice continuous improvement, upgrade, move forward.

We can achieve all that without the casualties. It just takes a new perspective. 

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