Though many of us are aware of the fact that change is constant, it is not easy to adapt ourselves to it. Change is often hard and the thought of changing our behaviours, changing some existing methods, systems or ways of doing things makes most of us uncomfortable. Majority of us view organisational changes as overwhelming and complex. Our inherent tendency to resist change is what makes change management a difficult process.
However, an adaptable workforce is key to survive today’s fast-changing world. Many organisations require constant adaptation to meet the evolving needs, or to compete with emerging trends for their growth and advancement.
Being resistant to change makes people confined to their status quo, hinders progress and comfort zone makes them reluctant to learn or implement the new techniques. They become complacent in producing quality work, and ill-equipped when they have to come up with creative solutions.
“Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to and work through the change process.”Kelly A. Morgan
What makes change management difficult
Leading or implementing positive changes can be stressful, and is often met with resistance in one form or the other. People might oppose organisational changes for more than one reason. Some people might become increasingly irritable or defensive when their performance doesn’t meet expected standards.
When employees or workforce lack proper understanding about emerging changes, there is usually more negativity, blaming, or complaining.
Since change involves doing more work, learning or following new methods, stress mounts and people grow more critical of one another. When their existing abilities don’t match up to the new demands placed on them, they might even blame the one leading or managing it. People also resist change when they are unwilling to,
- Align with changes in priorities, in strategy and structure.
- To go out of their comfort zones of existing methods.
- Invest time in learning something new.
- Take on new responsibilities or follow the new norms.
- Work towards newly set standards.
- Improve or adapt to new creative approaches.
Some misconceptions about change management
In whatever situation you may find yourself, whether leading or implementing, there are certain misconceptions about change management that we all fall victim to. Knowing them helps you to prepare, equip and empower people to successfully adapt to change.
Change is easy and you can control what happens. Many of us underestimate how challenging change can be. Especially, when it involves changed power dimensions, or loss of perceived value or influence. Telling yourself that change is easy can only make you undermine the people involved.
The reason being it deals with transitioning teams and individuals or workplaces from a current state to an unknown future state, and the unfamiliarity makes it hard. Lack of understanding on why they need to change can make people anxious. This is also true for many of us in both personal and professional contexts, when change is forced due to factors that are beyond our control.
People will always support. Taking people for granted and expecting that they will do what they are told can be another misconception in change management. For change to be successful, one needs to explain why it is required, what positive changes will it lead to, and how you are going to get to that desired future outcome.
People feel they are being forced or manipulated when their concerns go unsupported and go unheard. When they view proposed changes as a threat to their existing status quo, quality of life, they will not support.
Having a plan us enough. You don’t need a formal change management plan if the changes are very minor and don’t involve systems, or processes. However, if the change you are implementing is big enough, it needs a map and a proper plan. But having said that, a plan is just not good enough if you aren’t backing it up with proper communication, action, providing support and training. It needs to be realistic, based on realistic time frames and requires considering who is impacted and to what extent.
As a leader, you don’t need to be involved. It is a big misconception that if you are in a leadership role, you need not involve yourself in the change process. On the other, leaders need to involve themselves at every step possible. They need to communicate early and often, guide, equip and work on helping people to overcome their fears.
Just having the vision, or knowing the strategy doesn’t always result in successful change management. Leaders must also ensure others’ concerns are addressed, and whether or not the necessary training is available on the new way of doing things in order to make people more accepting to the changes. When people don’t see leaders involved in the change process or if they do not have time to commit, they too do not commit to the process.
There is no resistance. Considering that everyone would like changes you make is rather fleeting than real. The fact is that most of us are more resistant than willing when it comes to adapting to change.
People resist when they think that proposed changes don’t really benefit them, and that they are mostly only for those who are in senior positions or from upper echelon. They either perceive it as impacting only few and that it doesn’t rally make a difference to everyone in the workplace or in an organisation. Communicating changes to only few people leads to this misconception.
Change happens quickly. Change can be often overwhelming where one expects quick results and faster outcomes. And if we can’t see immediate results, we often feel disappointed and sometimes even give up on certain of them. Creating change agility among various disciplines, equipping others to adapt to changes requires time.
Since successful implementation also involves giving and receiving feedback, correcting glitches and overcoming challenges, one cannot presuppose quicker and definitive outcomes. Setting realistic expectations regarding your time frames of reaching certain milestones, or measuring success or failure can prove to be more effective.
Ways to lead through positive changes
Change can be a good opportunity for growth, but at the same time it places more and more demands on the people involved that might contribute to stress in the workplace. If you are the one leading or managing change, here are some ways you can adopt to reverse the feelings of negativity and help people focus on their efforts.
- Have an end goal. To manage change effectively, it is important to know both what your intended end goal is and steps to get there. Narrowing down to best methods, the ones that meets your work structure and desired outcomes makes the change process easier. Knowing the specifics, having in detail each step that must be taken allows you to see what the future desired state looks like. The plan so carved out also serves as a framework for a smooth and unhindered implementation of change. It also helps to set realistic resources and timeframes.
- Get involved. Holding a meeting to announce changes need not necessarily make everyone involved to embrace change, The best way to ensure your changes are implemented effectively is by involving yourself at every level of the change process. This starts with making sure everyone fully understood the new processes and are communicating them to those working below them. Educating your employees on their role within these new methods, providing training early enough aids everyone understanding what is expected of them. This also helps in determining if anything needs tweaking to more effectively include the new processes.
- Be flexible. Change sometimes may not be successful in the first go. Since every organisation is different and so should be your change management framework. If you hesitate to adapt or tweak your process, plan or framework, you might fail in leading change successfully, when things don’t go the way you expected. The best way to ensure is to keep track of what is working and what isn’t. This way, you can make adjustments when needed and can come up with appropriate solutions.
- Show big picture perspective. Peoples’ natural instinct to feel secure and comfortable keeps them in status quo. By having something that drives them toward a bigger picture, having a purpose that inspires creates momentum. When you want to lead positive changes, you must understand your own purpose, vision and values to give people clarity in the direction they need to go. Inspiring a passion for change within your team or work group can extend to those they train and with whom they interact.
- Learn from mistakes. Change is an opportunity to learn. When you use feedback constructively, you can focus your efforts on what you can do differently going forward rather than dwelling on mistakes. For successful change implementation, one should be willing to course correct if needed. Discovering what is not working and why, allows you to address challenges more effectively. Learn to identify what needs to be improved. Addressing peoples’ concerns and working together to resolve them can make people more adaptive.
- Communicate early and often. Addressing concerns only when things don’t go as planned, or when you don’t get the results you expected, can be unproductive. Discuss changes early on, and in detail. Sharing details of how you go about making those changes happen, how they turn out into future outcomes, how everyone is impacted by it, or what you hope to gain by it, and what can go wrong is equally important to prepare yourself and others to adapt to change.
- Create a supportive environment. Express timely appreciation for their efforts throughout the change process. When people don’t meet your expectation, take the time to discuss and analyse to help them with any deficiencies they may. Focusing on individual strengths and weaknesses equips you to provide support and training where required. Clearly communicating your goals at the outset allows them what to expect as they know what us coming and how might it affect them.
Space for self-reflection
How do you deal with individual or organisational change?
Do you have a plan of action in order to successfully carry out the change?
How supportive are you of people in their efforts of change adaptation?
Do you address peoples’ opinions and concerns when implementing change?
How often do you make yourself available when leading or managing change?
What are some of your strategies to lead people through positive change in your workplace?
Change management is a critical skill. Being able to initiate, execute, and sustain change is key to continually improve the quality of your outcomes. To manage change successfully, it is important to figure out if there are any misconceptions you are falling victim to.
It is also equally important to include others by helping them adapt effectively, support, and approach the process with an open mind. As a leader or as an individual contributor, you can always take the initiative to be a positive influence and successfully manage change.
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