When you ask an organization and its employees to change, you open up a huge can of worms. People often like what the final organization looks like on the other side of a change, but they may be deeply resistant when the change is introduced.
This is because employees are human. They fear what will exist on the other side of the changes because they are comfortable in their here and now. Even when employees acknowledge that changes are needed, you need to introduce changes incrementally and follow recommended procedures to build support and ownership of the changes.
These steps in organizational change, while not always appearing on a schedule, will occur and play out as your organization proceeds to make changes in your ways of working. The following tips allow you to make changes with the least amount of pain and challenge.
Change Management Tips From Pros in the Field
- Deal with people involved in the change process with patience, gentle humor, grace, persistence, pragmatism, respect, understanding, and support.
- Take a long and broad view of change, and think about the impact of changes over one, three, and five years.
- Continue all of the behaviors and processes discussed in the articles below until change has the opportunity to become anchored in the culture. Dr. W. Edwards Deming in all of his work in continuous improvement emphasized the importance of the constancy of purpose.
- Set up changes so that people in your organization experience some early wins.
- Recognize that effective change is usually a realignment of the worldview of your employees, rather than a program or flavor of the month.
- People involved in change will need to recognize that change is risky; change can be scary; change can often entail the real desire and need to slip back into their comfort zone. Effective change requires constant vigilance to resist slipping back into the old, comfortable ways of doing business.
Finally, as much as employees need to celebrate new beginnings, you will need to provide opportunities for employees to mourn the past, to let go of familiar ways of doing work. Recognize that even as change is, hopefully, a true gain for your organization, it is also always a loss.
People lose coworkers, comfortable work processes, known ways of doing things, communication networks, security, and stability, or confidence in their own capability. Recognize their loss, and you will assist people to move more quickly with you into the brave new world.
Change Management Lessons
From the earlier mentioned reader survey, tips and ideas emerged from the experience and past practices of pros who work with organizational change. In their own words, they share with you what they've learned from years of experience working with change.
"Most of the problems in organizations are fixable through organizational changes (structure, process, culture) and learning (not necessarily the same as training). It's far rarer than we might think that you really need to get someone out of the organization."
"Change is continuous. Change management is a fad that in many respects may or may not work. It is clearly the measurement of change that organizations are most interested in as they wish to drive and direct it. The workplace evolution of change causes great difficulty as it has appeared to accelerate beyond, in many cases, the human capacity to keep up. This has been referenced for hundreds of years, the fact that generally, people are not prepared to embrace any change as quickly as most organizations wish to impose."
"It is, in fact, this skill (adaptability, flexibility, resiliency) that is the basis of survival of the fittest, not a new philosophy. The fittest, however, are most often not the masses. Finally, it is the imposition of change, in a formal fashion, that causes the greatest change shift in the wrong direction. Change that is assumed, incorporated or aligned with the true motivations of the individual is the change that is most positive and most profound. This is the work that my company strives to achieve, meeting the people where they are...Change by permission, rather than enforcement."
"The key in any change process is to discern the need that is felt both from the organization's perspective and the individual's. Usually, change efforts wait until after the last minute when the pain is so high that it can no longer be resisted. This leads to massive layoffs and overreactions. If on the other hand, the leadership build a strong reflective process and trust for each other, two things take place.
- "Issues are surfaced before they become overwhelming and a strategy can be developed which all understand or,
- "When crises develop the substance is present to pull together and deal with it. Obviously, this is not an easy place to live as there is always a temptation to lapse into being so appreciative that you stop paying attention to the realities that may be harsh themselves. Open and honest communications are assumed but don't happen, because of a lack of trust."
"Expect tough times ahead; everyone expects that after the initiation event, it should go smoothly, but the most painful part is yet to come: the transition period. Recognizing this early on in the process will help weather the storms ahead."
"In the government, change interventions generally come from outside pressure. Congress or others might designate a new pay program as something that should be done or a study of an agency failure makes recommendations. Thus, few people inside an agency psychologically own the solution so they only talk, not walk the talk.
"Management underestimates or avoids the personal energy/time required for success. Upper management makes statements, forms task forces, and waits for the change to roll-out. Lower levels do what is forced and wait it out."
More Information About Change Management
- Executive Support and Leadership in Change Management
- Planning and Analysis in Change Management
- Communication in Change Management
- Change Management Lessons About Employee Involvement
- Build Support for Effective Change Management