How many times have you ‘felt’ that change was on it’s way in your organisation, but you were not quite sure what it was, when it was, or how you would be affected. You haven’t been told anything ‘formally’, but you just know. So, in the absence of being told, you and your colleagues have started to make up your own thoughts about what the change will be. The rumour mill cranks up, and then very quickly starts to head into over-drive.
I was speaking to a senior manager recently in a large organisation who said, “There are conversations going on behind closed doors, private appointments are appearing in people’s calendars..” then he paused and said nervously, “I think we’re going to lose our jobs….”
That thought process had started all because people were perceived to be sneaking off into meetings and private appointments were appearing in people’s calendars. In reality, the senior manager has no idea whether any significant changes were forthcoming, so in preparation for any change, he had started to make it up in his own mind, to protect himself from the change. The fear of change had already started to grip him, no matter what the change was.
The psychology of change is fascinating. It’s not just that people fear change, it’s also that they believe that when they’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good thing. Change isn’t just about welcoming something new, it’s about giving up something comfortable and familiar. It’s about feeling confident to step outside of your comfort zone, the place where you have been happily residing for some time.
The careful management of change is key to it’s success, but why is this so often forgotten? Done well, change can be a really positive experience. Done badly, it can hurt. A lot.
The key to successful change management is communication, and lots of it. That doesn’t mean sending an email, then proudly ticking the communication box on the change management checklist. It means, communication and engagement – which comes in a variety of forms. Winning hearts and minds of the impacted people is the most important yet also the hardest part, no matter what you are changing.
Here are some tips for success.
1. Tell the story and share the reasons behind the change.
Individuals need to ‘buy’ the change – they need to understand why the change is happening, and why it is going to make a positive difference to them and the future of the business.
2. Excite them about the bright future and the journey to success.
Build the momentum of positive messages about the change. Don’t just leave this to newsletters and emails. Face to face communication always works best. Paint the picture of the journey forwards.
3. Let people know what it means to them personally, and answer their questions.
This stage is key to winning hearts and minds. People need to think about the change, but most importantly, what it means to them. People don’t just change because they are told to. Make time to answer their questions. Give them time to think and reflect. If nothing else, transitioning through change takes time. One to one, and team coaching are great enablers of change at this time.
4. Give people the confidence and the skills to make the change
Don’t just send your teams on a course and expect them to use all their new shiny skills that are required to make the change. They need to be excited to be getting these new skills, because they have already started to ‘buy’ the change. They are already on the journey.
5. Support people to maintain the change
Finally, don’t just abandon your teams when they have got the new skills and the confidence to make the changes. Remember when you learned to ride a bike without the stabilisers? This is how it will feel for your teams. They will feel wobbly in the new world for a while. Support them, and celebrate all successes, however big or small.
The biggest key to the successful management of change is how well the leadership team buy it, own it and drive it. That’s one for another day….
If you would like to talk further about managing and transitioning your teams through change, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.