The What, How, and Why of Change Management

November 2, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

What is Change Management?

Broadly speaking, all change, whether it’s strategic organizational change or unanticipated personal change is about transitioning individuals, teams, and/or organizations from a current state to a desired future state in order to fulfill or implement a vision and/or strategy.

For leaders, change management is about empowering individuals to accept and embrace changes, both planned and unanticipated, in their current environment.

Change management is the continuous process of aligning with the set of external conditions creating the necessity for change—and doing so more responsively and effectively.

How Does Change Management Work?

Change management means a systematic approach and application of the mechanisms that support the change process. It means defining and adopting specific strategies, tactics, methods, activities, and approaches for embracing, implementing and dealing with change. Common obstacles to change include resistance, poor communication, insufficient capacity, lack of adequate resources, lack of proper engagement, and poor management of the overall change effort.

1.      It Starts with a Vision. Whether change is prompted by external or internal conditions , it must start with a vision. The vision will assist in motivating those impacted to advance their thought and actions in right direction.

2.      It Takes the right Strategies. The right strategy will ensure that the vision is achieved. Strategies provide the “roadmap” for achieving the vision. Without a strategic plan and vision, the change effort will fail.

3.      It Takes Clarity about Roles and Responsibilities. Being crystal clear about who is doing what, where, when , how and why is critical to the change effort. That means clarity on expectations, standards, scopes, and specific role of each contributor.

4.      It Takes Inclusion. Don’t even think about moving forward with your change effort without involving the key stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who will be impacted by the change. It is critical that they are involved in the process and understand how the change initiative will impact their current (and future) state.

Why Are We Even Doing This?

As leaders, our opinions, perspectives, and biases of the change process will have an impact on our efforts to support and guide our teams. Therefore it is critical that we understand, support, sponsor, and steward the change process to success.

Asking the right questions will help leaders assess the right approaches to change.

1.      Do we know the changes, their impact, rationale and benefits?

2.      Can we articulate the need for change?

3.      Is this the right time for change?

4.      How will the change impacting existing workloads?

5.      How can we achieve some early wins?

6.      Are there other organizational or sector change efforts that will impact our change effort?

7.      Can we combine forces, collaborate and coordinate with those efforts and integrate communications, goals, strategies and resources?

8.      Can we learn from past change efforts – what did or did not work well?

9.      What level of trust exists between groups and how will it impact the change effort?

10.  How can we make the messages clear, interesting, and engaging?

Communication Tips

·        When the decision has been made, emphasize that change will happen.

·        Explain the benefits but also acknowledge the negatives of the change.

·        Provide as much detail as possible to minimize rumors.

·        Acknowledge when you do not have the answers. Do not guess.

·        Update your team regularly on the progress of the change.

·        Articulate the business rationale and the events leading up to it.

·        Clarify the vision and specific change plans.

·        Ensure consistency about the message across the organization.

Conclusion

Change management is complex and leaders have a specific role in the process. Whether you are embarking on a new change initiative or considering change within your functional area, remember that change is a fast-breaking story: Sometimes you’ll hear the news from management; sometimes you’ll hear it from employees. You may be tempted to stay silent but even your silence will be interpreted – and probably not favorably. Gaps will be filled by the grapevine.  When you don’t have answers, don’t give answers but as a leader, force yourself to the front lines and manage the change. This will boost morale and ensure long term success.

Good Luck.

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