We are all resistant to change at some point and only experience in dealing with it and seeing changes occur that helps us to recognise and embrace it more readily when we see it.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
Perhaps it is also inevitable that no one notices the good change but only the bad change. If a declaration goes out from senior management that everyone will now enjoy free tea and coffee from the dispenser all day long, then it would certainly be embraced and probably not even recognised that an element of ‘change’ has occurred. However, should the declaration read. ‘all tea and coffee will carry a surcharge of one pound from tomorrow’ then I suspect that many arms would be thrown up into the air in condemnation of such an act and we would hear such things as “why does that have to change?” and “everything has changed” and “nothing remains the same for long”.
A trivial point for sure, but it does demonstrate the wider scale of how change affects the way we think about things and our attitude towards that change. There are a number of truisms that come to mind when we examine this subject further. For example, a number of statements instantly come into view whenever this subject is raised; change is inevitable, no one likes change (or very few), not all change is good and we don’t like it when things change for, seemingly, no apparent reason.
Our job as business leaders is to ensure that whenever we implement change, we do it in a way that it is understood by all as much as possible in order to increase the chances of any changes we make being embrace rather than resisted. To not do this effectively means that we run a high risk of any changes being subject to resistance causing motivation and general levels of morale to inevitably suffer.
We know that things have to change in every aspect of our business life. If we don’t stay competitive, adapt to market conditions, or simply look for or launch new products then we stand still and standing still in business is not an option.
So, what can we do to minimise the risk of resistance and increase the chances of employee buy-in when we must make changes in the work environment?
Wherever possible try to ensure that change is something that is collaborative. It’s not always possible of course, but if you are able to consult your people about the proposed changes and elicit their opinion before taking any action then there is far more chance of them buying into it as they will feel as though they own, in part at least, the changes that are about to be implemented. This will increase their willingness to embrace and not challenge.
If you can then try and view the necessity to make changes as turning the proverbial ‘Super Tanker’ in mid-ocean. In other words, break it down into bite-sized chunks and make small incremental changes rather than doing it all at once where possible. There is less impact and more opportunities to explain, persuade and encourage people to get on board with the new way of things.
It is also important to try and create advocates around the business who are fully aware of the changes you are about to make, and they can help you to communicate your plans more effectively. This can be individuals all over the business from top to bottom as well of course as having your HR team behind you and fully supportive. Not everyone will necessarily agree with you but if you are seen to have credible and robust reasons for the changes being made and a plan that is well thought through and can stand up to scrutiny then, agree or not, they will recognise that you are the one responsible for the plan and their job now (once opinions have been voiced) is to support that plan.
This brings me to the final point that a plan that is well thought out and robust is pretty much useless if not communicated expertly throughout the organisation. If you do not communicate your plan properly then be assured that unofficial meetings will take place all over your business in corridors, car parks and text messages because what you don’t tell your people in terms of detail they will simply make up and fill in the gaps themselves. This is inevitable in business as conjecture and opinion gets mixed with facts and then before you know it the A Division is being closed down and 400 people have to go – none of which exists in your plan of course.
Therefore, it pays to think your communication strategy through in great detail. Draw pictures, graphs, and images of how things will look in the future where you can, so they are easily understood by all. Put them on notice boards or Team chat forums, have regular update meetings and even focus groups to reassure your employees of what is happening. All of this will help to ensure that the benefits of what you are doing are the main things that are focussed on and not the negatives.
Our training partner - Maguire Training - have classroom-based courses and programmes that can help you with understanding how to manage change effectively. They are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules which cover a range of leadership, business management, communication and related topics.
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