WHY DOES EVERYTHING ALWAYS CHANGE? AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Change, according to one of the definitions in the Macquarie Concise Dictionary, is “to make different; alter in condition, appearance, etc.” This is the definition which is most applicable to business, and in fact, life in general.
A wise man once said “Without change there can be no breakthroughs…without breakthroughs there can be no future”. Well the economic climate, geo-political situation, and diverse competitive marketplace make change of some sort inevitable. It is one of the constants in the world…along with death and taxes. Personally I would rather deal with change then the other two. But not everybody likes or embraces change at the same level or to the same degree. So if indeed it is inevitable in the business world how can we deal with it and perhaps make it more palatable?
This question has dogged many business executives and leaders for years. The answer believe it or not is simple and is comprised of two parts…communication and involvement. Let’s explore this more.
Reluctance to change is generally a result of lack of understanding as to the requirement for the change and lack of involvement in decisions that impact the way people will do their work. Too often managers focus on the process and mechanics of the change to the exclusion of how it impacts the people. Typically change will affect the structure of an organization and the culture. And the culture is made up of the people…so it goes without saying that the people should be involved. I’ve seen organizations that fail to involve the people and communicate the change fail miserably in implementing the change so desperately needed. This does not mean that the process is ignored to focus solely on the people aspect. To focus on process or people solely would be tantamount to disaster. What is required is a balance of the two.
Well now we know the problem…what is the solution? Consider the following if you are going through, or about to consider, change.
Make the planned change(s) know to the people. Ensure that there is a clear, concise plan. Inform everyone of what the plan is and why the change is necessary. Ask for feedback. Show people how the changes will benefit both them and the organization. After all, if there is no benefit(s) then why bother changing. By communicating on a continual basis unwarranted fears can be overcome and genuine concerns may be uncovered that had not been thought of. These genuine fears can then be discussed and staff can be reassured that their worries are being addressed and that management really does care.
Part of the communication is to continually monitor the progress of the change and to share this progress with the staff. People need to know what is working and what is not…and the plans to fix what is not working.
Involve the People
Ensure that employees, and perhaps some clients, are given the opportunity to be involved and contribute to the change process. Exclusion can lead to demotivation, resentment, and ill will toward management which in turn will lead to a less then successful implementation of change. Take all input into consideration no matter how trivial you may think it is. In many cases within an organization it is the staff that come up with ideas for formative change. It could range from the colour of the walls to a new go to market strategy. Whatever it is there is valuable input to be had.
Identify Change Agents
There are people within organizations who relish change and can be in a position to help influence change. These can become “change agents” that can facilitate the acceptance of change. They should come from all areas of the organization so that they can gather input and feedback related to the change initiative. They can also be the eyes and ears as to how the change is affecting morale. Involve them in the role of spreading the gospel according to change. Their enthusiasm can be infectious.
Make it Bite Size
If you try to put too much into your mouth you can’t chew. The same goes with change. Change needs to be paced over a period of time and in amounts that can be easily handled. Trying to change everything all at once is generally doomed to failure in my experience. By putting the change into “bite size” pieces it allows for people to become more accepting of the change as they see small successes developing. It is also easier to “fix” an inappropriate change if it is small rather then large.
Now that you know how simple it really is, you should have no problem with your next change initiative. Believe me, if you foster an environment of open and honest communication and you involve people at all levels in the process, the next change initiative will be easier.