Managing Change in the Workplace

Managing change in the workplace can seem somewhat daunting at times. We’ve pointed out that one of the hurdles of change management that people often overlook is how to affect change at a pace that doesn’t take forever, but isn’t so disruptive and vast, per stage, to stall out an organization.

Basically, it’s like making adjustments to an engine while it’s running, and making the changes quickly enough without damaging or stalling out the engine. It’s not easy to do this, but managing change in the workplace, while work is being done, isn’t avoidable. Simply shutting down a department or an entire organization to make changes unhindered is just not an option barring very extreme cases of corporate reorganization.

Well, this all sounds solid enough, but how the heck do you actually manage this? The truth is, some aspects of this will call for you to break some unspoken rules of change management theory that frankly are a bit apocryphal anyhow. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

Most schools of thought regarding change management hammer home the idea of handling your subjected department or organization as a singular unit, for the sake of ease of control and parallelism. However, that’s not viable in an active workplace. There’s work to be done, and with change management, there’s training to be done as well. So, you’ve little choice but to break the group down into two or more units, and repeat each change cycle once per unit, before considering a small change cycle complete. This is still straining the work force, as the unit not being addressed in change is a bit of a skeleton crew, but during training, it at least allows for some people to be unoccupied to continue normal functions.

This also brings on a problem in most departments of overcoming that objection to change in a new way. Traditionally, objection to change is viewed as the human impulse to not want to leave their comfort zone, but in truth, there’s just as much of a stimulus to this when it comes to “I’m busy and don’t have time for your tinkering!”

There’s no easy solution for that, but just know that the freezing problem with people in an active workplace is just as much due to that as it is apprehension. Adjust your handling of unfreezing accordingly, and good luck with that.

Finally, allow me to propose considering a process to alleviate these problems a bit, that being the use of an onboarding system to solve at least the training problem. It can also address objections by engaging in gamification.

Systems like WalkMe and others can guide users through complex processes while preventing fatal mistakes, allowing people to be trained on new systems while performing work. They can also capture logistics for change management that are hard to capture otherwise.

I still recommend dividing your group to reduce some of the loss of efficiency that even this can bring about, but it’s a good stopgap for making managing change in the workplace a lot easier to implement and track. Of course, these two strategies, even combined, can’t account for all the obstacles, such as the need to take small steps per cycle of change, and addressing other human concerns, but at least it reduces the logistical nightmare significantly.

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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