Change Management - Managing change

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Change is an inevitable part of the modern day workplace. As a manager, you need to know what to do when change arises and be able to help your team through it and do your part to ensure its success.

You may not be able to control what happens in other teams or other departments, but you can certainly help change succeed by managing it well within your own team.

4 key activities of a manager

When implementing change, there are 4 key activities that a manager is responsible for:

managing change

1. Communicate

Communication is a key aspect of managing change. If a change is communicated well from the start, it helps get your employees invested in the change and limits the amount of resistance that you may face later on. Good communication is also essential for gaining feedback on the change and providing feedback to the project leaders and senior managers.

Creating change readiness

Creating change readiness is the first step of the implementation process and if done properly, your team members should be more willing to support and ultimately adopt the change. To facilitate change readiness, you will need to be able to explain the following:

  • Why the change is necessary - You need to be able to explain the issues with the current state and why the future state (i.e. what you're changing to) is better. You also need to be able to explain the negative consequences if the organisation doesn't change.
  • Why the change is the right change - Often people will agree with the need for change but not that change itself. You need to explain why this change is the right change to address the issue.
  • Who is behind the change - Your team members need to know that those leading the change are credible and committed to its success. They also need to know that you support it.
  • How the change benefits each individual - Even if the change will bring great benefit to the organisation, people will still focus on how it impacts them personally. They need to know what benefits the change has for them. If things will be worse in the short-term, help them understand the long-term benefits.
  • What support will be available to ensure success - If people don’t believe that they can make change happen, they will give up at the first hurdle. You need to explain what training, coaching and support will be provided to help them make the transition.

Communicating change

When a change is first communicated, it should be done face-to-face. Studies have shown that communicating face-to-face about the benefits and issues of the change is a powerful strategy in building support for change.

It is also important that it is open, two-way communication where team members can share their concerns, frustrations and needs without the fear of retribution.

Collecting and providing feedback on the change

Collecting and providing feedback serves a number of benefits. Firstly, it allows your team members to participate in the change process. Studies have shown that participation in making decisions reduces resistance. Participation in the change also sends a message to your team members that they are valued.

Secondly, it ensures that vital information about the change is fed back to the change leaders and helps them to understand what is working and what could be improved.

2. Advocate

The second key activity of a manager during change is to be a visible advocate for the change. As discussed at the start of this module, a lack of management support is one of the top reasons why change initiatives fail.

If managers fail to visibly support change, it creates a negative perception of the change and team members are more likely to resist.

To ensure that you are seen as a visible advocate of change:

  • Get involved with the change - Attend training with your team members, be a part of change activities, and generally be seen to be involved with the change.
  • Talk positively about the change - Ensure that you are always talking positively about the change. If issues arise with the change, get your team talking about what needs to be done in order to overcome the issues rather than why the change is flawed.

3. Coach

The third key activity of a manager during a change initiative is to coach their people and provide the support they need to adapt to the change. This might be helping them come to terms with the change, helping them to build their confidence with new ways of working, and/or helping them overcome any barriers that are getting in their way.

  • Be available - make sure your team know that you are there to support them through the change and that they can come to you for help. Make yourself available when they need you.
  • Check in with each team member regularly - your team members may not always come to you for help. Make the effort to check in with each team member regularly and see how they are going.
  • Coach, don't tell - ask questions and help your team members to find solutions to issues themselves rather than telling them what to do. Your team members will be more committed to the outcome if they've participated in the process.

4. Manage resistance

The fourth key activity of a manager is to identify and manage resistance. Every one of the three previous functions - communicating about the change, being a visible advocate of change and coaching your people through the change - all serve to minimise resistance.

If done well, they should significantly reduce the amount of resistance as you move through the change process. However, you should still expect some resistance especially if the change involves significant loss.

  • Be honest and transparent - If negative outcomes (i.e. job loss) cannot be avoided, address those issues head on and be honest and transparent about it.
  • Listen to suggestions - Don't assume that resistance comes from a bad place. Often suggestions put forward by resisters may be valid improvements to the change initiative. After all, no-one understands the ins and outs of a job like the person who does it every day.
  • Listen to needs and concerns - Take the time to listen to the needs and concerns of the individual resisters. You need to get to the root cause of the issue to help them move forward.
  • Target the most influential resisters - If you are having issues with large groups of resisters, identify the most influential resisters and consult with them individually. If you can turn them into advocates they will influence others to do the same.
  • Communicate and celebrate small wins - Showing measured progress as the change evolves will add more credibility to the change and undermine the power of resisters.

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Next: Building support for change