Friday, September 27, 2013

Change Management 101

We continue to receive many requests from our clients for change management programs and we offer them excellent workshops following the methodologies and insights of change management gurus such as Prof John Kotter and the Heath brothers.

During the session, participants tend to ask these types of questions - all to do with very practical steps that are often foremost in the minds of change champions, managers and supervisors.  Here is a sample of some of the questions and I would love to hear from you as to how you would respond:

1. "There is a massive change coming and my team is suffering from change fatigue"

There is no question that we now live in times of VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  The pace of change is fast and furious.  We know this rationally just by looking at the progression in the mobile phone technology that we use daily.  When did you last hear any moaning or whinging about the latest release of the iPhone new operating system - even though it certainly does take some getting used to....

Yet, when it comes to thinking about change in our work environment, all of a sudden we are just worn out by the pace of change.
We suggest that team leaders and managers constantly shake things up in their teams without waiting for the announcement of a major organisational change.  If the team has the sense that change is always around them, they will move away from victim thinking.  They start to accept that change happens at work - constantly!

Encourage people to take on different tasks.  Invite them to sit in different seats in meetings.  Challenge them to do one different thing on their way to or from work. 

2. "I don't believe that the new change is going to work, so how on earth will I sell this to my team?"

This is a tough one because not every business decision is in your sphere of control or influence.  Simple fact.  Yes, you can try out your influencing skills and motivate upwards in the line to ensure that you improve the processes or the outcomes.

Sometimes, the reality is that you cannot make any adaptations to what has been decided and you need to make peace with it and move forward.  Just having an internal, whinging conversation with yourself about it, is not going to make any difference to the final outcome.  But, what it will do is pull the rest of the team down with you in terms of their thinking.

Without you knowing it, people's eyes are on you all the time.  How you talk and how you frame conversations has a powerful impact!  No matter how tough the times are, your own concerns and doubts are for behind closed door discussions.  In front of the team, you demonstrate quiet confidence and authority.  People will role model themselves off your attitude.

Think Ernest Shackleton - he needed to get his men safely back from their failed expedition but never let on to them just how dire the circumstances were.  They all survived.

3. "The change is being planned by the top management team and they have no idea about the implications on us further down the tree."

Work on your influencing skills.  Make sure that you build your level of credibility.  YOU need to become the person who top management turns to when they want to know what the impact of the change will be.  

This is not something that you can achieve overnight.  It takes a concerted effort to build the right network so that when you need to call on them you can.  Remember the strength of weak ties.  You need both a very close network as well as a loose network so that when these changes happen, you can tap in to the network to connect you to the right people.

4. "Not all change is perceived as positive - some involves a re-structure that does not impact everyone in a good way."

Yes, sadly there are changes that have an impact that is not positive.  All you can do is be there for those who need your support.  Don't make judgements.  Simply say that you are there to assist as needed.

5. "Stress levels are through the roof because of the pace of the change."

I would love to say that you should offer the team the MCI stress management course!  

There are techniques that you can use to reduce stress and anxiety.  One of my favourite ones is to ask people to remember the very worst thing that has happened to them - and sadly most people have had some really bad things happen to them in their personal lives.

Compared to those terrible events, usually what we experience in the workplace is relatively minor.  We need to remind people of this constantly.

6. "I have told my team about the changes several times and I am frustrated because there are still questions OR worse still, no one is adopting the new way of doing things"

When we think that we have communicated enough - we have only started!  Communicate in different ways.  Email is not nearly enough.  Say it in team meetings.  Use posters.  Add in to newsletters if possible.

Where possible, make it in to a game or a challenge.  We all love a competition and if there is a way of injecting fun in to it, do so.

If they are really not taking to the change well, also consider looking at what could be changed in the system or in the environment to make the change easier.  Think of the lion in the Animal Kingdom in Disneyworld.  Instead of training him and begging him to sit on the rock so that the guests to the park can see him, they heat or cool the rock depending on the weather.

7. "I am in a company that suffers from analysis-paralysis.  So much planning happens and then nothing moves until the last moment - when it is often too late."

This is often a mind-set that permeates many teams.  Keep the energy high!  Push people to solutionise.  Send the message that the view is forward and that near enough is good enough.  Don't slip in to paralysis mode yourself.  Apply your decision making skills and take a stand on a decision with the facts that are currently available.

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