There are really only two major challenges when it comes to change management: Lack of Planning and Lack of Skill Set. Since both can cause change initiatives to fail completely, we’re discussing these pitfalls in two articles. In part one we explored lack of planning: specifically, why organizations fail to plan for change, and we provided a framework to create your own change management plan which you can customize to meet your organization’s unique needs.
Now we turn our attention to the second, and no less important challenge for managers everywhere: a lack of change management skills.
Where is Change Management 101?
Unfortunately, change leadership skills are often left out of leadership development curriculum and training programs for managers and emerging leaders. Thankfully, more companies now offer organizational management and leadership development training for its obvious benefits, but change leadership requires a specific set of skills that are different from those used in day to day organizational leadership. The changing environment, always sensitive in nature, serves up unique obstacles. And if a leader handles them in the same way that regular organizational challenges are handled on any normal Tuesday, results could literally explode.
Why is “Change” Land So Dangerous?
When change falls upon the workplace, some employees handle it better than others. While some individuals seem to approach life and their work environment with a high level of tolerance for change, others are less flexible. For those people, change or even the consideration for change causes them a great deal of fear and uncertainty. You see, change isn’t simply about introducing a new procedure, protocol, or strategy. It goes much deeper, to the emotional level where real concern exists about the possible loss of something valuable or the fear of not being able to sufficiently adapt.
While changing office locations seems like a standard process, some people will have to get up earlier for a longer commute. Some people might not get to take their kids to school anymore or pick them up. Some people might have to work in a new shared workspace they find irritating. The implications mean more to individuals than the straight forward change mandate.
Leaders that undergo change management training are far better equipped to handle these types of deep emotional concerns running through the minds of employees. They’re better able to formulate and make use of well-defined change management plans. Most importantly, they’re better able to implement change and forecast for change management needs in the future.
An optimal change management training curriculum addresses many aspects of the organization, the individual, and the team dynamics inside the organization. And although each organization has a unique set of challenges, needs, and culture, we have three recommendations that can assist change managers across the board to reach higher success rates.
#1 All-In Leadership
If you’re considering launching a major change effort, make sure your leaders can devote the time needed to effectively drive it to fruition. Leaders must take an aggressive role in supporting change initiatives. They need to be accessible to teams that are implementing the new systems to support the change to answer questions and give direction. Likewise, leaders should maintain a high level of communication with all stakeholders, listening and responding to their concerns. Also very important, they must model the change for the team in everything they say and do. If your leadership is not ready to take up hands-on activities to support the change effort, you might consider postponing the effort until you have the leadership support you need.
#2 Match Your Pace
How quickly does your organization move in a regular setting? Different organizations move at different paces. If your organization moves a bit more like the tortoise than the hare, then build a change process that introduces change gradually. Don’t expect your workforce to accept new changes in addition to a new speed that isn’t characteristic of the company. The pace should remain a constant familiarity. The same goes for change within a quick and nimble company. Don’t slow everyone down with a lengthy introduction to your new process. Provide everyone the information they need and conduct the specific change tactics thoroughly, but keep up the pace or you risk frustrating the hell out of your employees.
#3 Celebrate Quick Wins
The sooner you can put a “win” on the board for your new process, the better. People need to see that it’s working and that their efforts are making a real difference. So, although you don’t want to patronize your employees by recognizing meaningless milestones, highlighting the first signs of success, whatever that looks like, is going to rally your team around the new process. So get on that ship! Determine what success looks like and look for the slightest indication that you’re moving in that direction. When you recognize and celebrate the win, be sure to include everyone and use communication that all team members will be able to understand and value. Your IT department might not appreciate a loud bang of a gong bell as much as your sales department. So design something for them that they will appreciate.
If you have trouble identifying a well-equipped change management advisor within your company, you might consider bringing in an expert to show leaders and managers proven tactics for managing change. At People & Performance Strategies, our curriculum teaches change management skills and can also include plan creation. One thing is for sure, leaders that approach change with a specialized skill set and an airtight change management plan can survive almost anything.