It is an organizations ability to manage change effectively which will determine whether it succeeds in the long term or not. Change is ongoing and yet all too often it is dealt with in a way which leaves the organization in a difficult place and individuals feeling traumatized and exhausted.
There is now a huge industry set up to orchestrate and manage change, a language which is trotted out by different consultants which have a flavour of ‘Emperors New Clothes.' Despite all of this, too often change is handled badly. I believe there are some fundamental principles which are at the heart of managing change well.
1) Be clear about what it is you want to achieve and why. That vision is what will sustain you through the turbulent times. It must be worthwhile, sit well with the values of the company and its employees and be shared by those who are working to deliver it.
2) Share that vision and engage staff in it. People need to understand what the core purpose of the organization actually is and the values which are important in delivering that purpose. If change is needed, stick to the principle of sharing and involving staff throughout the process. If people take ownership of the need to change they will be far more prepared to embrace it. So many top down changes fail to win over the staff and in doing so achieve limited results. I have been surprised at the number of times people are involved in massive change programmes but no-one seems to be clear why the changes are being introduced or what they hope to be achieved by the change.
3) Create a culture where constant ongoing development is seen as a positive thing. Change is then seen simply part of the ongoing process rather than something to be feared.
4) Introduce changes only when it is clear that they will enhance an organizations ability to deliver their core purpose. Ongoing monitoring and thorough evaluation of performance facilitate this process. Knee jerk changes should be avoided.
5) Before any major change takes place there must be a thorough audit of the status quo. Celebrate the things which are done well and protect them. Too many babies are thrown out with the bath water. Many fundamental changes create a model which fails to be any more effective than the old one and has the added problem of alienating those who are to deliver it and the clients who use it.
6) Be clear about the scale of change needed. Do you need a complete restructure or make changes to an existing one. There are so many examples, in both the public and private sector, where organizations are constantly reinventing themselves. Nothing is ever given time to settle and huge amounts of money, time, energy and good will are wasted in the process.
7) Understand the impact of change on your people. Use this knowledge to support the change process.
To do this, you need to understand what drives and motivates people. Two of the major motivators in life are certainty and uncertainty. Everyone needs both but in different ways. If you are implementing or managing change understanding this principle can make a significant difference to the levels of stress created for you and your staff.
Certainty at its most basic level is the drive we all have for security. We need to know we have shelter, food and that we are safe. It is absolutely fundamental. We all need certainty but it is the level of certainty each individual needs which will determine their ability to handle change.
The paradox is that we also need a level of uncertainty in our lives. Another way of looking at it is the need for variety. Variety is said to be the spice of life. Too little - life is boring, bland and uninteresting. Too much and we get indigestion. Some people crave new experiences, they hurl themselves out of planes, explore new potentially dangerous places. Where others, choose to go to the same hotel, year after year, as they like to know exactly what to expect.
Once this principle is understood, it is possible to present any change in a ways which work with the individuals need for certainty or uncertainty. Selling the benefits of any change to staff needs to take account of differing needs. The challenge and variety of experience will appeal to one, whilst the greater financially security created will be of greater importance to another.
Even when news is bad -- perhaps the need for redundancies or closure, it is better to keep the staff informed. People can handle bad news presented well but find the not knowing and fearing the worst torture.
8) Use the knowledge and expertise which exists within your organization. Those at the grass roots have much to offer. Make them part of the solution, encourage your staff to be creative. If they understand what you are trying to achieve and why it is important, they will be able to bring their understanding of the process and the likely impact of any action.
9) Act with integrity. Trust between management and staff and your staff and clients is vital. Treat people fairly and consistently at all times. Make the criteria for redundancy or cuts absolutely transparent so everyone understands why you have made the decisions. They may not like it but they will appreciate the need for it and they way it has been handled.
10) Monitor the impact of the changes as you make them and evaluate their impact. The cycle should be ongoing.
Gina Gardiner may be contacted at http://www.graduatesolutions.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
Gina Gardiner has been described by Ofsted as an “inspirational leader” and by Investors in People as an “impressive coach and exceptional mentor who has developed an innovative and exemplary training scheme” for emergent, middle and senior managers. Gina has a huge interest in leadership, she has led a wide range of training and facilitation activities with individuals, schools and other organizations, In her work as Independent Consultant and as an Executive Life Coach and mentor she supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills and effective delegation; empowering them to see themselves as part of the solution. She is a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach. Author of “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And In Doing So Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion)”