Change management is challenging at best, and can be quite maddening for business leaders. I know, I’ve been through it several times. My clients have gone through it, or are in the process now.
Change management is a process. There are some key components that help make the process less painful. (Notice, I didn’t say painless.)
Business owners and leaders see the vision before others. They see the need and/or benefit of change when others don’t. The leader’s role at this point is to paint the picture plainly so that everyone can see it and understand it. Andy Stanley put it this way, “In order to get people to do what you want them to do, you must get them to se what you see.”
Changes in a business bring fear. Fear of job loss. Fear of job change. Fear of the unknown. At this stage, the leader needs to be honest about changes in employment. If there is going to be fewer jobs, people need to know. They need to know which positions will be remaining and what it will take to keep/obtain one of those positions. If jobs will be lost, people want to know ahead of time; give them plenty of time to plan. If there are going to be more jobs, people need to know. They need to know if there is an opportunity for advancement and what it will take to be considered. They also need to know something about the hiring process and to be assured job candidates will be selected with the team in mind.
Not including the entire company in the planning leads to distrust of leadership and feeds fear. It is imperative that leaders include the entire company in the planning process. Everyone doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – involved in every step. But, everyone should have a voice and that voice needs to be acknowledged. People on the front lines see things leaders don’t which means they can offer insights and solutions the leaders aren’t aware of.
Sometimes a leader has the luxury of time and slow the pace of change, sometimes things need to change in a hurry. The faster the pace, the more the leader needs to be involved in and focused on managing the change itself. The leader must understand that some people don’t deal with rapid change well and that the company might lose some good people due to the speed of the change. The rule for rate of change is, as slow as possible and as fast as necessary.
The planning stage will identify key milestones. Celebrate these when they happen. Not a week later, not when the whole process is done. Celebrate achievements and milestones in real time. This provides needed energy and momentum.
The leader must always be acknowledging people’s willingness to change and their contribution to the change. The leader must go out of his/her way to thank people for their efforts. When people feel appreciated, they are willing do more and they are willing to understand more (that’s key point many leaders miss). Understanding brings clarity. Clarity brings both security and creativity. Thanking people makes them feel valued. This is oil for the gears of change.
Change is a process. It is a process that will not only change your organization, it will change you.