Change management is a touchy science, because it involves not only quantifying human beings and the work they do, but it also involves adjusting the way they do things, and the way a system works. People are creatures of habit, and often, even when unhappy with the status quo, they will respond negatively or at best indifferently to changes they themselves did not ask for. On top of this, there are the logistics headaches of affecting change on any scope without stalling the whole greater system to do so. In business, that’s a problem. So, maybe it’s time to think about a few very key change management principles that can help this process go over smoothly.
There’s no shame, even if you’re a seasoned veteran, in stopping and doing research like this before going in, because people also change over time, as a whole. The attitude of today’s employee is not necessarily the same as that of those a generation previous, and you do have to account for three generations of employees within an organization at any time, and to properly and evenly affect any level of change, things have to jive with all three groups. There’s also the fun of individual people being very unique creatures themselves. So, what strategies can you employ to be sure this works out as well as humanly possible?
#1 – Observation before Intervention
In order to affect change, you have to intervene, disrupt the status quo, and address the people involved, both in why change is happening, what the changes are, and the ramifications of these changes. Once the intervention has begun, there’s no going back. Even if you abort making changes, you’ve made changes on some microscopic level just by intervening at all, and that can be disastrous if it’s directionless.
So, before you intervene, even to just discuss possible needs for changes, study the system. Gather as much intelligence as possible, learn about the people involved, and the system in its current state. Weigh its current status against the changes you want to make, and be sure they are necessary and beneficial, and attempt to predict, within margins of error, how the people involved will react. Speaking of which …
#2 – Intervention is Personal
While initial intervention to affect change is going to be a group affair, usually first to gather feedback, discuss general issues and possible changes made to fix them etc., you must also intervene on personal levels with all involved in the changed part of the system. People will have differing responses to it, and some may be sensitive in ways others are not.
It’s important to not be heavy handed, and to not make employees feel devalued, or inferior because you are asking them to change something about how they do their job or how they behave in the system at large. Listen to them, hear their concerns, and adjust how you intervene with them accordingly.
#3 – Build Alliances, Don’t Battle Enemies
When change is proposed, there will be three camps of people in the affected demographic – proponents, the neutral and indifferent, and opponents to the change.
It’s easy to instinctually try to battle those opposed through debate, power or other means, or at least get them to become indifferent at the very least. This is going to just annoy them further, and distract you from important things, as well as waste time and energy. Instead, focus on converting the indifferent into proponents of change by selling them on why they should care, and by strengthening relationships with those already in favor of the changes proposed. This will gain you momentum the naysayers won’t be able to resist.
I can name a hundred more change management principles that are just as important, but these focus on the human element, which is the trickiest of them all. But don’t stop here. Stick around for more strategies and tips on this, and of course, continue research on your own, as well.
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.