Change Management is a critical piece for corporations. Large corporations depend on it for anything that affects their production environment. But what is change management at all? Change Management is the process that kicks in when a change is made to the production environment of a business.
Change management is a basic skill in which most leaders and managers need to be competent. There are very few working working environments where change management is not important.
This article takes a look at the basic principles of change management, and provides some tips on how those principles can be applied.
When leaders or managers are planning to manage change, there are five key principles that need to be kept in mind:
- Different people react differently to change
- Everyone has fundamental needs that have to be met
- Change often involves a loss, and people go through the “loss curve”
- Expectations need to be managed realistically
- Fears have to be dealt with
Here are some tips to apply the above principles when managing change:
- Give people information – be open and honest about the facts, but don’t give overoptimistic speculation. Ie meet their OPENNESS needs, but in a way that does not set UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
- For large groups, produce a communication strategy that ensures information is disseminated efficiently and comprehensively to everyone (don’t let the grapevine take over). Eg: tell everyone at the same time. However, follow this up with individual interviews to produce a personal strategy for dealing with the change. This helps to recognise and deal appropriately with the INDIVIDUAL REACTION to change.
- Give people choices to make, and be honest about the possible consequences of those choices. Ie meet their CONTROL and INCLUSION needs
- Give people time, to express their views, and support their decision making, providing coaching, counselling or information as appropriate, to help them through the LOSS CURVE
- Where the change involves a loss, identify what will or might replace that loss – loss is easier to cope with if there is something to replace it. This will help assuage potential FEARS.
- Where it is possible to do so, give individuals opportunity to express their concerns and provide reassurances – also to help assuage potential FEARS.
- Keep observing good management practice, such as making time for informal discussion and feedback (even though the pressure might seem that it is reasonable to let such things slip – during difficult change such practices are even more important).
Where you are embarking on a large change programmes, you should treat it as a project. That means you apply all the rigours of project management to the change process – producing plans, allocating resources, appointing a steering board and/or project sponsor etc.. The five principles above should form part of the project objectives.
Responsibility for Managing Change
The employee does not have a responsibility to manage change – the employee’s responsibility is no other than to do their best, which is different for every person and depends on a wide variety of factors (health, maturity, stability, experience, personality, motivation, etc).
Responsibility for managing change is with management and executives of the organisation – they must manage the change in a way that employees can cope with it. The manager has a responsibility to facilitate and enable change, and all that is implied within that statement, especially to understand the situation from an objective standpoint (to ‘step back’, and be non-judgemental), and then to help people understand reasons, aims, and ways of responding positively according to employees’ own situations and capabilities. Increasingly the manager’s role is to interpret, communicate and enable – not to instruct and impose, which nobody really responds to well.
Change must involve the people – change must not be imposed upon the people
Be wary of expressions like ‘mindset change’, and ‘changing people’s mindsets’ or ‘changing attitudes’, because this language often indicates a tendency towards imposed or enforced change (theory x), and it implies strongly that the organization believes that its people currently have the ‘wrong’ mindset, which is never, ever, the case.
If people are not approaching their tasks or the organization effectively, then the organization has the wrong mindset, not the people.
Change such as new structures, policies, targets, acquisitions, disposals, re-locations, etc., all create new systems and environments, which need to be explained to people as early as possible, so that people’s involvement in validating and refining the changes themselves can be obtained.
Whenever an organization imposes new things on people there will be difficulties. Participation, involvement and open, early, full communication are the important factors.
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.
Change Management principles
- At all times involve and agree support from people within system (system = environment, processes, culture, relationships, behaviours, etc., whether personal or organisational).
- Understand where you/the organisation is at the moment.
- Understand where you want to be, when, why, and what the measures will be for having got there.
- Plan development towards above No.3 in appropriate achievable measurable stages.
- Communicate, involve, enable and facilitate involvement from people, as early and openly and as fully as is possible.
It’s likely that you’ll have to write a report and recommendations afterwards, in which case try wherever possible to involve the people in what you say about them. Let there be no surprises. Be constructive. Accentuate the positive. Be straight and open with people.
Enjoy the experience. Be respectful and helpful to people and they’ll be respectful and helpful to you.