Change management is a term that gets used fairly loosely when companies hope to implement change. It can seem fairly straightforward – the company wants to move from y to z. So, how do the leaders make it happen? Well, through Change Management, of course. But what does that mean really?
A definition that I like to work from is “the application of a set of tools, processes, skills and principles for managing the people side of change to achieve the required outcomes of a change project or initiative.” The idea here is that if you cannot get the people who need to implement the change on board, the change will not be sustainable and will ultimately fail.
Why employees join the resistance
When I work with leaders around implementing change, I always start with educating them on why employees resist change. There are two main reasons I often see:
- Employees have low visibility around the why’s and how’s. People have to be able to “see” your vision to truly buy into what needs to happen. If they cannot understand the “why,” they simply will not get on board.
- There is comfort in the status quo and often an attitude of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” For long-term employees, they may feel that the requested change goes against the organisational history and culture. Of course, in an age of layoffs and restructuring, fear of job loss is a powerful motivating factor to stay with the way things have always been.
Managers can also experience all of those feelings, along with the idea that the change is an additional burden they don’t care to undertake. They may be concerned about the change causing a loss of power and control, or they may fear they lack the skills necessary to manage the change.
At the heart of all these reasons lies one common factor: people with real fears and reasons that need to be overcome in order to affect real change.
5 steps to ease hesitation and facilitate change
There is much research surrounding this area, but I find the Four P’s (and an R) are very effective and basic ideas to bear in mind as we help our employees navigate the waters of organisational change.
Purpose: Describe why you are making the change. Help your employees SEE the end picture. People resist that which they do not understand. Address the “what’s in it for me?” factor.
Picture: Describe what the future will look like. Help them see the end picture, know what it looks like and what it will FEEL like.
Plan: Describe the steps we need to take to get there. Help them know HOW we will get there.
Part: Describe the part you need the specific employee to play; specify your requests; help them FEEL it personally.
And finally, the one R:
Repeat: once is never enough! In this high-tech world, we need to see something more than 12 times to begin to adopt it as reality. Repetition is the ingredient that gets missed the most.
Don’t let the shift hit the fan
Failure to adequately address the basic questions confronting employees – when, why, and how does this affect me? – can lead to loss of key employees, and ultimately failure to successfully implement the changes required. For more information on how you can implement a successful change management program and keep staff engaged, contact Choice Career Services by clicking here. We understand that managing organisational change is a complex process, so if you feel you would benefit from a direct consultation, you can reach me on +61 9326 4884.
This blog was adapted from Susan Ruhl’s original article ‘Shift happens! Leading compassionately through change’. Susan serves as Chair of OI Partners and is a founding partners of ICC Inc, the Colorado-based OI Global Partner firm. Choice Career Services is the sole OI Global Partner firm in Australia and New Zealand.