One of the most important and overlooked aspects of change management is the people-side of change. This is the most challenging and critical component of organizational transformation. New structures and approaches can be planned, policies may be created and policed, but these things do not guarantee success.
Employees are an organization’s greatest asset. By engaging with them from the very start of the change process, we can create a partnership that sets the stage for success. Here are four concrete strategies as you begin the process of organizational change:
Assess the Current State
We often rush into action before fully considering why a change is needed and communicating this to our staff. No one is interested in details of how to change without knowing why the change is important. Here are some questions to consider when assessing the situation:
• What is the current state?
• What data/information should be considered?
• What processes are not working?
• What would be the impact of the change?
Include Your People
In the flurry of workplace demands, it is easy to feel pressured to get the change process going and forget the people these changes will impact. Organizations often mandate the change without including staff, which leaves people feeling as if they are forced to change – and no one likes to be forced to do anything!
We need to include employees in creating a plan for the change by soliciting their input and listening carefully to what they have to say. Here are some questions that may be helpful in guiding the conversation with staff:
• What is your perspective?
• Do you have any experiences or ideas that might be helpful to consider?
• What are the risks of not making the change?
• What are the implications of making the considered change?
• Are there other ways to address the issue?
Choose the Time Wisely
The best laid plans need the right timing to be successful. Ask yourself these questions to determine if the timing is right:
• What is the workplace context?
• What other workplace stressors need addressing?
• Are we making too many changes?
• What are some benefits of waiting?
• What might be the negative consequences of deferring the change?
Articulate a Vision
Name the future benefits of the change initiative clearly. Make them appealing and worth the required effort. Comfort zones are hard to step out of, so be sure to give employees the real reasons for the change. Make the rationale compelling. Try to frame the thought of “no change” as the uncomfortable thought by stressing the anticipated positive outcomes. Here are some questions to help you frame your vision:
• What future vision can we anticipate if we move in this new direction?
• How will it benefit the organization?
• How will it positively impact their department/team?
• How will it positively affect the employee?
Successful change requires us to know the rationale for the change, include the people in the process, consider our timing, and be clear about the benefits. Change management is about setting the stage for a joint effort and creating a partnership.