Change. It can be exhilarating or painful, productive or disastrous. It’s the New Year’s resolution that has you going running at 5 a.m. It’s getting laid off and wondering if you should write that book after all. It’s a new Star Wars movie with new characters (but Harrison Ford is in it, so it must be okay). It’s getting back into the dating scene after your divorce.
Yes, change can be hard enough to manage in your personal life, but it’s even more complex in a business setting. After all, whether you get up and run at 5 a.m. or not is only between you and your pillow. But any changes you implement in the office will affect a lot of people, for good or for bad, and unless you are comfortable with copious amounts of risk (or you have Harrison Ford in your pocket), you are going to need to manage that change effectively.
What happens when you don’t manage change?
Change is stressful. It invites error and it ticks most people off. It is especially despised when the bosses call the dreaded staff meeting where they lay out the way the New Order is going to roll out. The employees, whether they previously heard rumblings of the change or whether it came on like a wrecking ball, typically feel unhappy and powerless.
When I was working as an account manager for a field sales marketing company, I enjoyed a great relationship with my boss. I worked remotely, managing the East Coast accounts, and I considered my manager my friend. She largely left me alone, and when I needed her help I asked for it. She understood my strengths and weaknesses, and she stepped in when needed, but let me do my job otherwise.
Enter the restructuring. Suddenly I found myself underneath a new-to-me and new-to-the-company manager. This woman didn’t know me, didn’t know my work, and had no historical context for our relationship. On top of that, she had a micromanagement style that offended me to the deepest fibers of my being.
I was an experienced, effective, revenue-generating employee. Within six months after the restructuring, I had quit.
According to research conducted by Prosci, when those affected by changes at work are not consulted or considered before making changes, the following threats take place:
- morale deteriorates (people get unhappy)
- productivity declines (unhappy people don’t work as hard)
- passive resistance escalates (the whispers in the break room; the workarounds to keep using the old system)
- active resistance emerges to sabotage the change (the heckler in the staff meeting)
- valued employees leave the organization (case in point)
- projects go over budget and past their deadline (they want to do that against my recommendations? Fine, they can see what happens)
- divides are created in the organization (whose side are you on anyway?)
- the organization builds a history of failed and painful changes (oh no, not again)
If you want to avoid an intergalactic battle in your office, you need to employ effective change management. Change management is defined as “a comprehensive, cyclic, and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups, and organizations from a current state to a future state with intended business benefits.” It’s a sailboat ride rather than a jet ski. It’s the carousel, not Space Mountain. It’s easing people into a new role/situation/management style/organizational structure in a way they can feel comfortable with, and be more likely to adopt the solution.
Industries change rapidly these days. Most solutions can be implemented on time, within budget and according to the outlined requirements, but can still fail if those using it lack the willingness, knowledge, ability, or support to use it.
Does your organization have significant change in its future? Do you have your own personal Harrison Ford to help manage that significant change?
Change is inescapable. Join us for a workshop on how to guide yourself and others through the turbulence.
- Managing Organizational Change & Transition: Navigating the Whitewater:
- All our Organizational Change Management courses
- Prosci Methodology: www.prosci.com
- ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government, and our Community, by Jeff Hiatt
About the author
Christy Swift has been a freelance writer and correspondent in the United States and Canada for over 10 years. With a degree in English and technical writing, she has a knack for making complicated subject matter digestible and even tasty. Christy regularly conducts research into the latest trends in project management to provide the Solarity Group with engaging content for its website and e-newsletters.
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