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System integration. Organisational restructures. Business mergers. These are things that happen every single day, in organisations all over the world. You’ve probably been the recipient in at least two of them.
A staggering statistic, however, is that upwards of 70% of these changes in business do not go as well as the vision behind them – they either fail, run drastically over budget or do not deliver the anticipated benefits. 70%.
This leads to the question “how can I ensure my organisation's transformation does not fall into that 70%?” The two biggest factors that can contribute to the effective delivery of any change, in my opinion, is Process Documentation and Change Management.
In this article, we will focus on Change Management, what it is, the importance and ultimately how it helps.
What Is It?
A simple Google search will reveal reams of explanations of Change Management, some correct and some not. Put simply, this is the practice of helping people to engage, adopt, embed and sustain the change. If you imagine you announced to your workforce that the business would be undergoing a restructure in the next 3 months what would you anticipate the reaction to be?
· A drop in performance
· Employees looking for external opportunities
These are entirely natural human responses to having your comfort zone rattled. People have levels of need that need to be met, once the first level is met we move on to the second and so on:
1. Biological/Physiological – air, water, food etc
2. Safety – protection, security, order, law
3. Belonging/love – family, affection, relationships, work groups
4. Esteem – achievement, status, reputation
5. Self-Actualisation – personal growth & fulfilment
Those in italic are the needs that are suddenly at risk when we think of a restructure – suddenly the safety of my role is at risk, I may no longer belong to the work relationships I have built, what if my work has not been good enough and I am flagged for redundancy?
Effective Change Management looks to bridge the gap of human emotion and business transition.
Why Is It Important?
Below is what is referred to as the “change curve”, a recognised depiction of how humans react to change.
We begin with denial – we don’t need a restructure, everything is fine, whatever we change will not work and it will just go back to how it was before.
Following this we go through resistance, also referenced as depression/anger – here we become dis-engaged, we complain, become stubborn. It is recognised that some people will remain in this space for longer than others as they come to terms with what is happening.
Our penultimate stage is exploration – we now understand that things had to change, we are inquisitive as to what the new world will look like, how we will fit.
Finally, we commit – I get it, this makes sense, why did we not do this before?!
You may have noticed two lines – grey and orange. Grey depicts the level of emotion an employee will go through without Change Management. Alternatively, with effective Change Management we can see the level of denial and resistance have decreased while the level of exploration and commitment have increased.
The orange Change Management line is a far less exciting roller coaster – and that is exactly what you want your employees to feel.
How Does It Work?
There are many different frameworks for Change Management, but essentially all boil down to the same principles.
1. Create the need for change – what are the threats of not changing
2. Create a network – senior managers and front line employees who are bought into the change and will drive it forward in their business area
3. Create a vision – what does the new world we are aspiring to look like?
4. Communicate that vision – everyone needs to know about it, as often as possible
5. Address obstacles – people are going to be unhappy, the change network can help remove blockers to change
6. Deliver quick wins – break your change down and celebrate when each stage is delivered
7. Build on everything you’ve done – once your quick win is delivered, this is the time to really drive the business forward
8. Anchor the change – ensure that people do not slip into the old ways of working
So we circle back to our change curve and the importance of effective Change Management. A strong, experienced Change Manager understands what people go through and the process in which to alleviate tension, fear, anger and ensure a smooth transition from the AS-IS to the TO-BE. Many businesses embark on a change without the understanding of how critical people are to the change and the organisation.
Unhappy, dis-engaged staff leads to poor performance, poor standards of work and increase absence. I cannot think of any business globally that can absorb the cost of an unhappy workforce.