Don’t Let Change Manage You!
Six Simple Concepts for Managing Change
by Jane Meyer
Based on our work with clients in both the public and private sector, we identified several key elements for successfully managing change. Keep these six simple concepts front of mind in your daily management and you’ll see positive results. Now, boldly go where no one has gone before…controlling that change.
You limit you chance of success with only a key executive or sponsor driving change. You might realize the initial goal but sustained results are unlikely. Building broad support at each level in the organization increases the success rate of an initiative. For example, implementing a new organization structure without broad support often times results in the establishment of a “shadow” organization. You minimize the original goal to streamline, reduce costs or increase efficiencies. In fact, costs likely increase over time.
Start with a key executive or sponsor. Then create a sense of urgency at all levels in the organization. Continue to expand your coalition of supporters in a deliberate manner. Employees need to see some substantive change within a reasonable period of time. Based on our experience, employees must see real, needle-moving change within six to twelve months of the beginning of a project. Longer than this employee support will wane.
2. Communicate Early and Often.
Communicate as much as you can as soon as you can. Being transparent goes a long way toward building trust and acceptance. Delaying sharing information frequently results in misinformation being shared through the grapevine. Avoid the pitfalls of decreased trust, lowered morale, lowered productivity and higher turnover, by aiming to over communicate
To achieve successful understanding by employees, you should communicate more than you think. According to Prosci, people need to hear the same message 5 to 7 times. That means you need a clear message, plan and someone to deliver the news. Research shows that employees want to hear directly from the executive sponsor of the change and their immediate supervisor. Regular updates from these two key sets of leaders increases acceptance of a change initiative. A premium is on face-to-face communications. Don’t rely too much on technology. You need to give employees the opportunity to express their views directly and engage in two-way communications.
3. Build on the WIIFM.
You get far more supporters when employees understand the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). Reluctant employees can become supporters or remain neutral if treated right. Explaining change in terms that matter to them builds acceptance over time.
The executive sponsor and leaders must understand employees concerns. No matter how insignificant they may seem, unaddressed concerns matter to the success of change. Ignoring or minimizing the impact on your most important assets places your initiative at risk over the short-term and long-term. Bottom line – our experience demonstrates you must pay attention to the impact on employees, including those that are directly impacted and those that are only tangentially impacted.
4. Encourage a Culture of Change.
Developing a culture where change isn’t a special event takes time and commitment. Successful organizations create a shared vision of what they want to accomplish and aspire to become. They build that commitment to change into the vision and mission of the organization.
You need to do more than just state what you aspire to become. Employees need to understand and believe. Masters of change make it clear how what employees do matters and impacts the success of the organization. Putting programs in place that encourage, reward and recognize direct and indirect contributions to the organization’s success are essential.
By embedding change into your organization’s routine business practices, you encourage employees to participate and support new initiatives. You take them from bystanders to agents of change. Congratulations! You just increased the likelihood of overall organizational success.
5. Stay Committed to Change.
Declaring victory too soon without a sustainment plan can wipe out all your great efforts. Organizations who declare victory too soon risk failure in the long-term. Organizations must stay committed to a project until the initiative embeds itself into normal business practices. This may take six months, a year and sometimes longer. Remain committed until you achieve both an environment of normal business practice and employee acceptance.
Encourage your organization to celebrate short-term wins but remain committed to project goals and objectives. Know what long-term success looks like, track it and keep it moving. Stay the course and don’t shut down a project before you achieve complete victory.
6. Demonstrate Courage.
We said you have to boldly go…that means taking calculated risks to drive organizational success. Don’t let the risk of not being perfect stop executives from making decisions. Being too risk adverse will “freeze” the organization and prevent it from moving forward.
Equally important is the ability to identify and remove obstacles. Leaving barriers in employees’ way will prevent the organization from evolving. Demonstrating a commitment to change, even in difficult times with difficult choices, drives employee commitment and organizational success.
Successful organizations embrace change as a part of their daily lives. They engage each other, communicate early and often, understand the WIIFM, embrace the culture, commit to the vision, and demonstrate courage to push through to the end. It is a team effort to make change stick at all levels of the organization. Use these six concepts, starting with you next initiative, and watch the impact on those directly impacted by the initiative or not. Manage change. Don’t let change manage you!