Effective change management starts with several things, one of which being the selection of an appropriate model and methodology to follow. Of course, I’ve talked about the three most widely used models out there, so I won’t spend a lot of your time here hemming and hawing about that particular aspect. Chances are, you’ll pick one of the simpler ones, probably the eight-step model which reduces your salmon-esque upstream swimming to fight the antagonists of change in your environment.
But, effective change management is more than just picking a model that works well for the environment and people you must work with. It also requires a skill with people that not everyone has, to be honest.
You see, effecting change organically and unobtrusively in any complex system (especially a business with long-established ways about things) is very much an exercise in social engineering. Granted, you do need to have a skill with pacing, logistics and efficiency for when you change what, and how you approach these changes to prevent the alterations from essentially stalling the processes the system must continue during the overhaul.
That aspect’s pretty well-covered and documented, and you surely understand the hard science behind that part. But people … well, people are a harder thing to assign a science to, and even the psychologists will agree with me on that point.
Most of your work with change management, and your greatest obstacle, is going to be two aspects of the human animal – easy transition for the willing, and conversion of the unwilling. Of course, this is a compounding issue, because the unwilling, once converted to willing proponents, must also be guided through an easy transition like the others.
Ease of transition is basically overcoming apprehension – something the most eager and willing proponents of the change must still face. They may fear they don’t understand the new ways of things, or they may be confused. This is all about being confident yourself, so that their empathetic capacity will pick up on it, and allow them to be confident themselves, and plow ahead undaunted.
It’s the naysayers that are the problem, of course. Being a confident leader isn’t going to help here, and as I said in the beginning, you’ll probably pick a model that doesn’t rely on fighting them relentlessly before you can progress. But, they’re still there, and you can’t just ignore them. This is where your skill as a negotiator, as a bit fo a salesman, and motivator, must be tapped. You will have to work very hard to sell them on why the changes are beneficial to them, and why it’s worth their willingness to step outside their comfort zones – the primary cause of rebellion against change. Along with this, of course, you must also work hard to convince them that the changes you are bringing in aren’t a slap in their faces.
So, what does effective change management begin with? On top of a solid strategy and a skill for orderly transition, it starts with strong, confident leadership and a delicate hand as a negotiator and apologist. It’s not an easy job, so those who have weak hearts may want to think long and hard if they want to take on such a challenge.
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.