People change, institutions change, businesses change and society changes. That is how we adapt and survive, through constant, incremental change.
Sometimes change isn’t incremental; sometimes it imposed, sudden, dramatic and painful. Such change pushes us to our limits, and beyond in some instances.
When people are thrust into sudden, dramatic change they will fall into two key groups. Those that understand the need for change and are prepared to move and those that see change as moving them out of their safety zone and will resist doing so until it is safe for them to do so.
Those responsible for implementing the change process inevitably belong to the first group. They get it. That is why they have been placed into that role. With the placement comes a degree of power and with that power comes an even greater degree of responsibility.
In the rush to implement change it can become easy to ignore the past. This is perilous, as the past often provides pointers to potential issues with implementing change. Those implementing change can often forget that something so natural for them, so seemingly obvious and risk free for them is not like that for others. Those driving change often do not recognise risk because the nature of the beast is that they can deal with anything. Not everyone is like them.
Change requires changemakers to consider all aspects, to look at the environment from a balanced perspective – profit, people and place. Often the only question asked is how can we cut costs or increase effiency or increase revenue. Few ask how is this process impacting upon our people and our stakeholders. We assume what is good for us will be good for them. Rarely do we ask what is the impact of this change upon our environment? How will it impact our workplace, the way people think and how that impacts their behaviours? We assume those outside the organisation will see all the good thinhs we are doing, when often they see that plus, the damage we are creating. Reputations can rise and fall during change.
Real transformation occurs when all the parts work together to ensure everyone emerges from the change process in a safe manner. The change process itself is not transformation, its just a process. Tranformation occurs when everyone understands why change is needed, how it will impact them, how they will be helped through the process and what they need to do to benefit from the change.
There are lessons to be learned from our experiences with change. Communication is critically important. Not mass communication; instead one to one, personalised conversations that cascade down through the organisation. People fear what it is they don’t know or don’t understand, so leave no stone unturned or conversation unspoken.
Mentoring and coaching is necessary to provide people with support and encouragement, to help them explore their fears and to replace negatives with positives.
New roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined. Confusion leads to resistance. New processes must be clarified and appropriate staff training provided, otherwise they fall back upon old practices.
A two-way feedback loop must be in place, where everyone has access to information and everyone is kept up today, where also management are provided with feedback in an open and transparent manner.
Leaders and change agents must understand they are not perfect. Despite their vision and their energy they will make mistakes. This is where leadership comes to the fore, where a mia culpa becomes important and where being seen to adapt and change becomes a powerful motivator for others.
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