In business it is inevitable that at some point you will need to lead a change initiative. It may be as simple as changing offices, reallocating car parks or not providing biscuits at morning tea any longer! It could also be a major change such as implementing new standard operating procedures, acquiring a competing business or restructuring operations. Some businesses are able to successfully drive major changes without a backlash and others simply can’t.
There are two things that are needed for people to change. Firstly people need to be motivated to support a change personally, socially and structurally. Secondly people need to have the ability to change and be provided with the knowledge and skills to support the change.
So what are the key steps you need to consider when working through change, not matter how big or how small the change may be:
• You need influential people on board with your change idea. They may be people with authority in your business or people with a personal connectedness to the change for example the people in your business that others look up to.
• Tell people about the change (the WHAT). Tell them what the change is and what needs to happen.
• Tell people why the change is needed (the WHY). Typically at this stage people start to wonder ‘what’s in it for me’, how will the change impact on my role and will the change impact on me personally. Prepare for this stage and have the answers ready for the questions you may receive!
•Tell people how the change is going to work (the HOW). Talk through the steps for the change, how you have considered the people aspect of the change, what training will be provided and what the timelines for change are.
•Communicate the first three steps time and time again in a variety of different ways! You may have group meetings, provide detailed documentation or have one on one meeting’s with your people. Remember that people don’t always understand the importance of change.
Keep talking with your people and provide them with opportunities to be heard, to discuss the change and how the change may impact on them. Ensure they have a voice and are able to provide alternative solutions to change – people are more willing to accept change if they have a voice in making the changes.
Certainly there are times when leaders can and must make tough calls. When you lead or have responsibility for a business, you can’t make arbitrary decisions without negative fall-out. It’s always better to engage your people in implementing the solution than to arbitrarily force a change. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy and just might be enough to force your calmest employees to lose control.
Diane Hallifax, Director | People & Culture Specialist