7 Key Principles of Change Management

It is easy to plot out a point in the future where you want your organization to stand. It is considerably more difficult to pilot an organization towards that change – from gradual changes to massive spikes.
Here are 7 key principles of how to successfully implement change management and smooth out the process.

1. Understanding the role of senders and receivers

Every change can be grasped from the perspective of senders and receivers. Senders are those that give out information about the change, and receivers are those that take in that information. Often, the message that is sent by senders is different from the message received by the receiver. One way to avoid this misunderstanding is to de-emphasize communication as a set of instructions, and for managers to observe how messages are being received.

2. Communicating the message clearly without being redundant

The best way to avoid ambiguous interpretations is to clearly communicate the core message in a clear manner to the entire organization. Since communication flows from the bottom, and up the chain of command, it is important to reiterate the message through multiple redundant channels. This ensures that employees at any level of the organization will receive the same message regardless of how they receive it.

3. Differentiate between natural employee resistance and ongoing resistance

As organizations transition through new changes, many employees will have a natural inclination for resistance. It is important to expect this early resistance, remain patient, and help them get comfortable. Gartner analysts explain: “If
the delivery of the change process does not include a clear understanding of the implementation mechanism, a communications plan, amarketing effort, incentives for change and a project focus, then the effort is likely to fail”. This resistance may stem from personal history, current events and how much change is currently happening. However, issues will arise when ongoing resistance prolongs change and threatens the success of projects. Determining the type of resistance employees are putting up is important to finding and solving the root cause.

4. Scaling the amount of management with the magnitude of change

Incremental changes are changes that take place over a long period of time, while radical changes are immediate changes that are required over a short time period While incremental changes still require change management, they give your employees more time to adapt. Radical changes require a much greater magnitude of attention to detail. Maintaining flexibility to tackle both incremental and radical changes by scaling the amount of management is key. You cannot use long-term methods to implement short-term changes, and vice versa.

5. Staying flexible with a long-term vision

In the same vein of valuing flexibility, long-term plans should be made broad and made cognizant of current events. They should incorporate a clear strategic vision, rather than a detailed step-by-step plan. Five year plans quickly become out of date. A focus on the delivery of immediate actions that line up with a long-term vision is better than adhering to narrow, detailed long-term instructions.

6. Empowering action by receiving employee feedback

The best way to engage employees is to value their feedback and incorporate it into the ongoing processes. For example, certain employees, at the behest of internal feedback, can be offered a chance to work more closely with design and product teams to learn more about relevant changes. According to Gartner: “It is human nature to shift this discomfort to the new system, assuming that it is inhibiting their job, rather than recognizing the elimination of problems they had with the old system. Since most users won’t be actively reminding themselves of the improvements they get with the new system, someone else needs to make the improvements visible”. Forcing processes onto employees without any internal feedback will inevitably make them more likely to resist change, rather than embrace it.

7. Addressing individuals rather than getting hung up on the processes

If all of the issues in the processes are ironed out, it is preferable to address individuals directly instead of dwelling on the plans and processes. After all, employees are able to respond to complex, and emotional human issues.
Prosci’s ADKAR Model provides a description of how to follow through with transitioning individuals. The five building blocks of successful change are “awareness of the need for change, desire to participate and support the change, knowledge on how to change, and ability to implement the required skills and behaviors, and reinforcement to sustain the change”. Proper change management should be able to identify individual challenges in any of these five areas and seek to fix them.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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