Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace

Managing change

19 Feb 2018

Shifting the bell curve

Change is a constant in our lives. 

And, for the most part, change is something we want and welcome.  Whether it is changes in the way we shop, getting a new car, up-grading our phone.  Despite often hearing people say that they do not like change, in the vast majority of cases that is not the reality.  The truth is we do not want things to stay the same; we wouldn’t be satisfied with things as they were ten years ago.
It is not change per se that we do not like; it is the disruption and uncertainty that goes with it.  It does not take much to make people feel defensive.  Change itself is rarely the problem; it is the process of change, influence and control over the change, confidence the future reality will be better than the current reality.
Within the world of business, ‘change’ is a word we apply to a variety of transitions, whether large or small, within a myriad of organisations.  So, any general discussion can only ever be about generalisations, a quick guide.  For changes that are key to developing your organisations’ service and performance, specific advice and detailed plans are required.

So what creates resistance to change? 
Within organisations there are generally three key reasons for resistance to change; 1) a perception of disempowerment or lack of influence over the impending change, 2) the disruption arising from the change process itself, and, 3) a perception the individual will be disadvantaged (or at least not benefit) from the change.  So, what are the implications for organisations planning change?  I would suggest a good place to start is the following:

To what degree is your organisation engaged with its staff?  And more importantly, to what degree do your staff feel a commitment to your organisation?  Consider your organisations’ culture, its communication and feedback mechanism, and the strength of leadership within the executive and throughout the organisation.
The more engaged your staff feel, the more personal commitment they have, and the better supported they are, then the more likely they are to accept, support and commit to the proposed change.  Importantly, don’t wait until you are about to implement a change to begin to engage your staff, engagement should be a part of your organizational culture.  That way, when you are implementing change, you are more likely to get the support you are seeking.
Change processes.
How effective are your change management processes?  Ask yourself how successful was your last change; how long did it take for your organisation to recover to a point of productivity?
Clearly effective change requires a combination of effective processes; communication, governance, resources, planning.  Reflecting on your recent changes, how well have they gone and where were the weaknesses, will help you prepare for the next change.

Telling the story.
How well are the benefits being identified and portrayed?  Clearly the benefits to the organisation will be well understood by the executive.  How well is that demonstrated throughout the organisation?  And not only the benefit to the organisation, although this is an important part of the story, but how does that translate to the individual; “what does that mean for me?”
The office ‘grape-vine’ is a powerful thing.  If you can get it telling your’ story you will get much greater commitment.  It doesn’t take much to set staff feeling defensive. If there are to be negative impacts or redundancies these should be seen by staff as justifiable, fair and transparent, and associated communication needs to be clear and consistent throughout.  Just as importantly staff will ask, “what does this mean for me?”  If you can demonstrate the benefits for the individuals and teams, you will gain commitment and promote your cause.

Shifting the bell-curve.
Within organisations of any significant size there will be some staff that are champions, leaders and advocates for the organisation.  The majority of employees will follow what they feel is the prevailing view.  And there will be those that are negative; the cynics and laggards.
As much as possible organisations should encourage and promote those who will support the change whilst countering the detractors.  As much as possible, and each little step helps here, shift the bell-curve to the right.

Creating momentum.
Supporting your advocates shifts the bell-curve in favour of change, to speed the process and gain commitment.  So too it is important to create momentum.  Once the benefits of the change have been established and there is commitment to move forward, the change should be implemented as swiftly as possible (within constraints of risk management and governance processes).
This requires advance planning.  It is not about rushing things through once you get the go ahead, it’s about having all the processes ready to go in advance; communications plan, risk assessments, governance processes ready to be implemented well in advance.

If you are planning change in your organisation consider how best you can increase staff influence and empowerment, minimize the disruption arising from the change itself, and, manage perceptions to promote a positive perception.

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