Organizations need to change frequently. Some of these changes are externally driven by competition, economic considerations, legal changes, etc. Some are driven internally by increased need for efficiency and effectiveness, changes in personnel, new products and services, new technology, mergers, etc. Some are driven by a leader who sees that the current way is not going to be sufficient for the future. This leader is challenging the status quo to create a better way.

Change is a major challenge for every company. Change projects must deal with a large number of variables. Remember that you lead people, you manage things.

Some of the LEADERSHIP variables include establishing need for change, enrolling people in the change, setting expectations, support before, during and after the change, handling turf wars, forming and leading teams, being second guessed, handling the emotional reactions, especially as surprises pop up, etc

The MANAGEMENT variables include project plans, budgets, timelines, quality and quantity of staffing, process changes, technology, deadlines, commitments, recovery plans, training, reporting, interference from operational realities, etc.

Leading a change effort is a very challenging role!

What Change Management is NOT
Some changes are purely tactical, e.g. swapping out a machine on the shop floor or changing the sequence of an accounting process. These generally allow people to approach the work the same way as always. These changes can be considered to be more of a training issue and require a minimum amount of change management.

What Change Management IS
Change Management is invoked when the new way affects the interrelationship of people and process across a wide part of the organization. Substantive changes in organizations always involve interrelationships and new ways to approach the work. Change Management is the ability to influence the critical mass of an organization to widespread commitment and enthusiasm for the change. Change Management is the thoughtful process of considering all the factors that need to be addressed to ensure that the benefits are realized under the new way of working.

The need to make a change is decided by the leaders at the top of the organization. A small team including executives and people from further down in the organization usually determines the strategy. The tactics should be determined by a larger team or multiple teams composed of people from all levels of the organization and all involved disciplines/departments.

The flaw in most failed change attempts is that the human dimension is largely ignored in creating the strategy. Conversely, successful changes have integrated the stakeholders into the change planning process. Stakeholder involvement is integral to the planning and execution of the change. Employees should be considered stakeholders and not merely the targets of the change.

There are three basic approaches to major organization change:
-Work ON the content, the people will follow.
-Work ON the people and the content
-Work WITH the people on the content.

This first approach is the industrial age option used by many hierarchical companies. It views the employees as part of the machinery. They are part of the problem. “I’ll plan it. They do what I tell them to do”. This approach guarantees maximum resistance.

This approach is slowly fading as companies become aware that a more humanistic approach to managing their personnel delivers better results. However, it is still prevalent in many old-line companies.

(Side note. During times of high unemployment, companies and leaders with more autocratic tendencies tend to backslide into this mode as they know that fear of job loss brings compliance.)

The second option is employed much more frequently today. Companies have more experience with change and recognize the value of activities that lower resistance to change. The objective here is to move them as quickly as possible out the other side of change so that we can get back to business-as-usual. (Notice the Us vs. them?) It may be stretching the point a bit, but in this approach, the people are still seen as part of the problem, the people and the process need to be “fixed”. In this approach, management uses a bit more finesse to deal with the people problem. This approach might include increased communication about what we (the management) have decided to do and why.

The Achilles Heel of this approach is that it is still a tops-down approach. It works to make people change by applying a force from the outside of the people. It focuses on employees’ behavior, skills and actions and asks them to comply. It does not address internal motivation.

This approach leans in the direction of considering employees as targets of the change and the idea that they don’t have much value to contribute. They are still part of the problem.

The third option comes from a different point of view. The previous two options are trying to maneuver the current organization to do “the new thing”. The third option asks the question “What do I have to do to transform the current organization to a whole new level”. This is the same thought process as “Now that I have my vision, what do I need to do to energize my followers”. The solution is to collaborate with them.

A collaborative approach tells your people that we are all in this together and invites them into the change process to plan and implement the solutions. Participation will motivate most of your folks. They do the work every day. They know more about the details of the job than people higher in the organization. They will come up with ideas that you never thought of. When they know what needs to be accomplished and why this particular solution was chosen, resistance to the change is greatly reduced. The change moves forward with a much greater level of cooperation.

When you are considering a major change in your organization, make sure that management has the correct attitude toward involving your people. The resulting change effort will be of higher quality and have far fewer speed bumps.

Author's Bio: 

Bob Maitland is an experienced coach, consultant, educator and author who brings an uncommon insight to his clients. He creates practical solutions to help organization leaders to improve their impact. He learned his craft in the real world of competing priorities necessary to make the business succeed. He understands your challenges.
…and he knows what to do about it!

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