Managing Change Matters
A Professor in a Graduate class in Organizational Psychology, MANY years ago, told us that if we only remembered one thing from his class let it be “People Seek a Stable Environment”. Once the ground starts to shake under our feet the ability to predict reactions becomes less and less precise. One thing is predictable: most people will put a lot of energy and time into trying to make sure their world is okay and far less worrying about how to make the new changes successful. The outcome often is reduced productivity and instability in the work force.
When we send a message to employees about organizational change, it can have people asking, “What does this mean to me? How will decisions get made now? Am I better off or not?” No matter how clear the message, there will be speculation about what “really” motivated the changes.
The Professor went on to explain that when change is being implemented, you should always focus on two things: Inclusion and Transparency. Having an opportunity to ask questions, express support and/or concern, and to offer constructive input can greatly minimize the downsides of change and reinforce the rationale behind it. Including people’s voices and offering clarity are the key elements of successful change management, and will minimize the shifting of ground underfoot.
We do most of our learning from stories. When there is no clear story we tend to make our own. Reading between the lines of emails or other messaging is normal behavior. The objective of work we do with clients during major changes is to assure there is a clear, understandable and inclusive “story” being told to all employees. The more people can relate to the story, the less disruption the changes will entail.
During a major restructuring in one of our clients, we worked with the CEO and his team in developing the story that explained not only the key points of the change, but also included a history of the work that was done throughout the company in moving toward the change over the past few years; the rationale for the changes and how they would enhance the teamwork and problem solving within the company and a clear path for asking questions, offering suggestions and clearing up any misconceptions about the changes.
We not only helped write the story, we also provided a third party with whom the employees could feel comfortable expressing their concerns and working with them on how to have the process be a successful implementation. Working with the HR team, we helped assure the internal processes supported the new changes in terms of compensation, training and development and hiring practices.
In the over thirty years of helping clients through these strategies we’ve learned “People love CREATING change and hate BEING changed. Making them part of the change rather than feeling as though they are being changed is the basis of the help we provide. In every instance we have been able to minimize any loss of productivity and help accelerate the acceptance of the changes and reap the benefits for which they were designed.