Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, claims that the only constant is change. He theorized that two people cannot step into the same river, because different waters flow around the pair. Heraclitus went on to theorize that, like a river, all things are in flux.
This is true for us personally, and for our companies. Change is inevitable. It can bring happiness and joy, or regret and failure. How we manage change makes all the difference. Company executives should understand that there is no single method for managing change that works for every company. However, there are tools, techniques and practices that can be applied in a wide range of situations.
By using the right strategies, it will be easy for executives to manage change and make it have a positive impact to the bottom line, as well as to employees’ lives. These change management strategies will give a company a competitive edge to reach great heights in performance.
Begin at the top
Change unsettles people at all levels within a company. I recently spoke with Carl, a candidate with obvious talent. I was sure I could place him quickly. When I asked him why he was seeking a career change, Carl told me his boss had recently left for another job. One of the other team members also resigned and followed his former boss. The company left Carl in limbo for about six months. Carl sweated and worried the whole time.
Then a new manager was hired. The manager immediately made a few small changes and Carl got nervous. He was sure this was the tip of the iceberg. Carl feared he and the new manager would not “see eye to eye” and he decided he should follow his boss’s lead and move on. The company had not anticipated that one resignation would result in the loss of not one, but three employees.
This negative outcome could have easily been avoided. When change is on the horizon, all the employees will turn their eyes to the top management team to provide direction, support and strength. A failure to communicate can be disastrous.
Managers must embrace new approaches to motivate and challenge the rest of the company. Executives should encourage team unity that is in alignment with the direction the change is taking. Behaviors brought on by the change should be modeled from the top to the bottom. For proper change management to take place, managers must be committed to implementing results-oriented actions all the way downstream.
Develop a Sense of Ownership
Effective change management requires a sense of ownership. When all affected parties are involved in implementing the change, they will own it. Leaders have the responsibility to make the change happen within their circle of influence. Employees who feel like they are being controlled and have no input will resist taking ownership of anything. Employees who feel valued feel empowered. Companies that have a strong mission statement have employees who are more likely to take ownership. When you develop a strong sense of ownership, employees will love what they do and continue to do what they love.
Communicate Your Message
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” ~ The Captain (1967 film, Cool Hand Luke)
A lack of communication is frustrating to employees and can result in undue worries, like those experienced by Carl. Without specific communication about changes being implemented, employees will draw their own conclusions. These are generally much worse than reality. Leaders should share news, whether good or bad. The worst news is uncertainty.
One mistake executives often make is assuming that everyone in the company understands the issues at hand. It is your job to help them understand the need for change. The best change management program will be inspiring. No matter what type of change you are going through, be clear about your goals. When you have a smooth flow of communication, employees will be provided with the right information. When they don’t have to be defensive, they’ll be more receptive to giving their feedback. In most cases, you’ll need to check in periodically as the change unfolds.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Change doesn’t always go according to plan. People may react in ways you hadn’t expected. Resistance to change can occur either at a group or individual level. Good change management calls for continual assessments. Leaders should be able to make the right adjustments to drive positive results and maintain the momentum. Use real data and an effective decision-making process. When you implement it in the right sequence and speed, you can avoid resistance, which will slow down the entire process.
Involve Every Level
The right change management efforts include plans on how leaders at every level should be involved. With the progress of transformational programs, this should be easy. There are hundreds of workshops available such as strategy creation, setting goals, and building good leadership. As different levels of the company will be affected, you will need to push responsibilities on each level from the initial change design downwards. Leaders involved with helping you implement the change will need to be enlightened on such specifics as the mission and goals. By motivating employees at every level, you will be able to smoothly implement the changes you are trying to accomplish. You many even mold a future generation of leaders.
Assess the Cultural Landscape
Assessing the cultural landscape will help you determine if your company is ready for change. Successful change management often happens fast and increases in intensity as it nears completion. It is important to make periodic assessments during the process, before it becomes too late to make adjustments to the plan. Bring key problems to the table and identify factors that can lead to resistance well ahead of the game. You’ll need to identify and consider behaviors, beliefs, core values, and perceptions that may affect your goals.
Speak to Employees as Individuals
Employees spend much of their time at work and many consider their fellow employees as a second family. Change in a company is both institutional and personal. The best change management efforts ensure that employees understand how their work will be affected. Let them know what will be expected from them. Employees will react according to what they hear and see, so be sure to treat them as individuals and clue them in on what is happening. You could even offer rewards, recognition, bonuses, and promotions for those employees who embrace change with a can-do attitude.
The Bottom Line for Change Management
Constant change in a company is a reality. Everyone should be able to adapt. In order to stay ahead of your competition, you can’t become obsolete. Have a clear vision. Involve everyone. Ask for input and treat people with respect. When you follow these simple change management strategies, you will ensure positive and lasting results.
Hankering for a change? If so, what one small thing would you change where you work? Scroll below to leave us a message.