[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]HE OTHER DAY I was having lunch with a colleague, an experienced change management practitioner. “Getting people to understand the need for a formal change management strategy and implementation plan has always been a bit of a struggle,” she said. “But now there is a huge split. Those who ‘believe’ that managing the change is an essential component of success and those who ‘don’t believe’ that it is necessary. Many leaders of organizations seem to just assume that everyone is comfortable with constant change, so there’s no need to ‘manage’ it.”
She’s right: These days, when organizations think about change, they tend to think it’s something they do all the time anyway (maybe it’s called ‘innovation’ or ‘disruption’ or ‘process improvement’, but it’s all ‘change’), so there’s no need to ‘manage’ it. And who needs a change management expert anyway, when a junior project manager with a GANTT chart can track timelines and send reminder emails to people who miss deadlines? Managing change isn’t that complicated, right?
In some ways I agree. Twenty years ago, launching a new enterprise-wide software system – for example – required a whole lot of change management, because it often signalled a fundamental shift in the way the business operated and the average worker took longer to adapt. Today, depending on the organization, department and function, deploying a new piece of enterprise software is often easier, because the technology is more seamless and most employees are quicker to adapt.
Change management really isn’t about chasing people around with a GANTT chart or making sure the latest Sharepoint update has been installed. At the end of the day, change management – at least the way I see it – is about helping organizations handle change with the most beneficial effect on the bottom line.
Here’s the thing: Constant change is tiring. As I said in my first book, when you are constantly changing your employees aren’t getting better at it, they are getting tired. And when your employees are tired they aren’t as productive. Employees don’t really embrace constant change; they just brace themselves because they know more change is just around the corner. It’s like when you are on a roller coaster ride and you grip the handrail really tightly in anticipation of the next wild turn. Now I know some people love roller coaster rides, but even the most die-hard fans don’t want to ride them all day, every day for a living.
Being Change Resilient and having Change Agility Skills at all levels of an organization are critical for this ‘new normal’ of constant change, innovation, disruption and the like. Organizations can build both change resiliency in their employees and encourage (and yes, even demand) change agility skills in their leaders and managers. Next week I’ll talk more about resiliency and how to build it. Suffice it to say that it isn’t that hard, just an area that would benefit from more attention.
That being said, I know change, even constant change is in the future for most companies. So help your employees help you by becoming the best and most transparent communicator you can. Spend time telling them the “why” of the change, help them see how they fit in, re-train them if necessary, cut them some slack, acknowledge their pain and you just might find that productivity (and enthusiasm) go up.
When change isn’t properly communicated and implemented, it costs the organization time, money, and, in many cases, top performing employees.
And that’s where change management is important. Developing a change management strategy is about gathering requirements, listening to feedback, communicating effectively and making time for training – all of which will ensure the change happens more seamlessly and painlessly than it would otherwise. The result? A healthier bottom line, faster.
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