Change management focuses on the people related aspects of change and is the process of moving an organisation and its staff from the current state to a new future state.
With change projects taking several months and larger programmes sometimes lasting years, it seeks to reduce the risk of transitional failure and maximise the adoption of new benefits and ways of working.
Using a broad range of change management techniques, it focusses the planning, organizing, leading, executing, and monitoring of changes from an organisational perspective.
In today’s business world, change management is a key leaderhip skill and a fundamental aspect of any organization’s success and an understanding of good change management techniques, emotional intelligence and project management are essential for any company looking to evolve and thrive in the complex 21st century business world.
In this article we discuss a number of change management techniques that leaders can employ.
Leadership Techniques to Manage Change in Your Organisation
1. Create a Strategic Outline of the “Big Picture”
Help your staff and colleagues to understand where the organization has come from historically, where it is now, its challenges and the strategic reasons for needing to change and set a new path.
Setting out this journey simply and clearly, along with the future benefits that will come about as a result of the change, will help to explain the rationale for change and why previous ways of working need to adapt.
2. Ensure You Have a Good Plan
Before you communicate any proposed change to employees, make sure you and have a good clear plan in place that addresses the 5 W's and How questions, (WHY, WHEN, WHERE, WHO and HOW), aspects of the proposed change.
In particular, think through in some detail about the people who will be impacted by the change and why they might have concerns.
Introducing change means affecting how people work, how they interact and collaborate and impacting how they will meet their personal and work-related objectives.
Ideally, you'll have detailed new or changing responsibilities for everyone involved, created a fully-developed timeline, and come up with replies to address potential issues raised by staff and stakeholders.
3. Share Your Plan When You Can
One of the more difficult aspects of transformational change is that it can often require a certain level of confidentiality on the part of the management team or specific individuals.
Future change may involve highly sensitive matters and require high impact objectives to be implemented such as amending working practices, moving staff and offices and even redundancies in extreme cases.
However significant the change, it is always beneficial to be as transparent as possible with your employees whenever you can.
Even if it’s not possible to provide employees with all the aspects of the business change, never just put up the "management shutters" and ask that employees “just need do as they are told”.
Even if you cant say much, be transparent with the level of detail that you can share. Even if detail of the change is negative, candid disclosure shared empathetically will go a long way toward making staff feel more at ease and stopping the rumour mill at source.
4. Be Honest and Never Lie
It is simple to adhere to this principle when the change in question is favourable. Nevertheless for leaders who may need to cut costs and streamline business processes, it can be challenging to do so when the change is a reaction to difficult circumstances or will have immediate negative effects.
However challenging, the best course of action is typically to be as open and honest as you can with your staff.
Sugar-coating, portraying circumstances in an overly optimistic light, and making unrealistic promises will only make staff doubt your real intentions.
While it's crucial for leaders to appear upbeat to their teams, always seek to do it in a way that takes into account future difficulties and disadvantages.
5. Communicate Well and Often
Maintain continuous open channels of communication with your staff throughout.
Spend time outlining the change's purpose as well as how it will operate in practice. Hold planning workshops, team meetings, sendout newsletters, be approachable, and allow your reports to come and discuss their issues or ideas with you in a non-judgmental and non-threatening setting.
Good leaders understand that an adaptable communication style is vital and that a direct "tell it as it is" approach is highly unlikely to meet the needs of staff in stressful and change orientated situations.
Use communication insight tools such as Everything DISC Profile Assessement and EQi 2.0 Emotional Intelligence for Leaders Assessment to understand your default style of communication. Become more aware of when your messaging and tone needs to be more empathetic or motivational or optimistic and also tune in to when you have to do less talking and more active listening.
6. Provide Training
Provide ample training for your employees to help them master the new way of doing things.
Change often involves shifts in technologies, tools or working processes and staff have to be shown how to upskill and be at ease with the new changes and challenges that will undoubtedly come about.
Listen to people’s concerns and build these points into the training programmes ensuring they have the necessary skills and knowledge to take the organisation forward.
7. Involve Others For Feedback
Although this is not always possible, allowing employees to participate in the planning process or provide feedback on decisions can be a very beneficial strategy.
Employees will appreciate the opportunity to be heard, and it can also be a great way to get different perspectives and understand impacts you might not have considered otherwise.
Its also vital to involve key stakeholders in any change process. Think about the important internal and external stakeholders who may have an interest or may be impacted by the change transformation.
Stakeholders can provide powerful positive and negative views on the change initiative and involving them at an early stage can get flush out all manner of risks and issues that need to be considered.
8. Implementing Change Takes Time
The majority of the time, a gradual rollout is preferred versus a swift and forced change in course.
Not only will you give your staff enough time to get used to the change, but you'll also be able to address any concerns and queries before the change actually goes into full effect.
Additionally, as it takes time for individuals to form new habits, this will give your staff time to become used to the new procedure and gradually phase out the old one in a way that feels more natural.
From a planning perspective, understand the pace of change in your organisation. Remember departments have to also manage their day to day existing workloads as new intiaitives are added on top.
Look for smaller "quick wins" and pilot ideas in smaller chunks to stress test what the organisation can deal with in terms of pace of change and workload.
9. Monitor and Measure
Once the change process has begun, it is critical to maintain a tight consistent oversight over the transformation to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that you are ultimately successful.
Understand and mitigate any risks that you may have identified upfront and track and address issues as they occur.
The success of change projects and programmes are determined by the business benefits that are delivered at the end of transition. Ensure you define the metrics to measure this success and constantly monitor them to ensure you're on track to deliver the benefits.
10. Provide Effective Leadership
Always maintain your focus as a strategic leader by not getting overly embroiled in the day to day detail and by embodying great leadership qualities and effective emotional intelligence.
Inspire your team, demonstrate strategic thinking, be open-minded and flexible, and demonstrate to your colleagues that you have their best interests at heart.
A strong leader can help their team weather the storms of change with confidence and clarity, no matter how difficult they are.
Developing Change Management Techniques
Good change leadership requires a manager to have a bank of change management techniques at their disposal at all times. If you want to learn more about change managment principles and techniques Kotters 8 steps to leading change and Lewins Change Management model are excellent places to start.
Recognising that business change can easily put employees brains into a threat state, good leaders need to be able to employ both the technical project skills that can deliver project and programme outcomes as they were planned along with high degrees of leadership emotional intelligence to address the people related aspects of change.
Always remember that regardless of what is implemented in terms of new technologies, tools and processes, its HOW they were implemented and employee adoption that ultimatley dictates the success of the change.