10 Change Management Principles
Change management is a process that involves making sure that everyone involved understands what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how to achieve it. You also want to ensure that your team members understand the risks associated with the changes being made.
It is about making sure that your employees understand what's going on and why. You want them to be excited about the changes that you're implementing. You also want them to know that you're doing everything possible to ensure that things go smoothly.
In any organization, change plays an integral role in improving productivity. It can help improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase profits. Change management ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the changes that need to be implemented. It helps avoid confusion and miscommunication.
It's for this reason that changes matter. The more prepared you are, the better off you'll be when it comes time to make changes.
There are many change management theories to adopt but the following Key principles should always be considered when Effective leaders navigate and manage change.
1. Create a Compelling Vision for Change
As part of the Senior Management staff, you must create a compelling vision for the change. You have to show people why they should care about the change. You also have to convey the urgency of the situation. If there isn't a sense of urgency attached to the change, no one will take action.
Even better, stakeholders will spend less time, energy, and money fighting the change and instead focus on championing it. However, you should create such a vision at the highest level within the organization. It should also be business-aligned.
A broad overview of the overall strategy is necessary to gain approval at a senior level. However, as change rolls across and into an organization, stakeholders will have different perceptions, which need different levels and types of data to help overcome resistance.
2. Have a Plan and Stick to It
Before you implement any plan or project, it's critical that you first have some baseline understanding of where things stand before you start planning. Otherwise, you end up wasting both time and resources trying to do something without knowing if anything has worked or not.
Planning is critical when making decisions. Otherwise, you risk making mistakes. Think through every aspect of the plan thoroughly before implementation. Your stakeholders must know what to do exactly when a problem arises.
Having a plan becomes even more apparent when multiple initiatives are happening simultaneously. In this case, you wouldn't know whether one industry is working because another one might have already taken place.
For your plan to go through, you must realize communication is vital in ensuring all stakeholders are well informed throughout the process. It's not enough to educate stakeholders once. They must continue to receive information until the process is complete.
If stakeholders aren't kept up to date, they could lose interest or become overwhelmed by the constant updates. Remember that people don't like surprises. No matter what the circumstances may be, most people would prefer to know ahead of time what is coming. Make sure that those affected can ask questions whenever they need to. Also, make sure these questions are answered.
You want to build an excellent personal relationship with all key players involved. If you don't, you risk losing them later. When you do establish relationships, trust is far more likely to follow. And belief leads to collaboration.
3. Abide by the Culture, and Work With it
The Company's existing culture is essential to the successful implementation of change. The organizational culture needs to align and support the desired objectives. Your job is to keep that alignment intact at all times.
However, culture does evolve. It means that you should accept the old ways of doing things for change to happen. However, that doesn't mean it has to stay that same forever.
Many companies that failed had only tried to change their ways from the outside and didn't consider that organizations develop organically. If you try and apply top-down style change management methods, you run the real risk of changing nothing. Instead, it would be best if you adopted bottom-up approaches.
4. Recognize That Stakeholders are Humans Too
People are emotional beings. They have feelings too, and they can't remain emotional and rational at all times.
Stakeholders are human beings, too, and so they will react whenever something happens. These reactions are typical and expected. Even more so, it isn't possible to please all stakeholders all the time. It would be best if the change management team decided which stakeholders are essential and which ones are dispensable.
Sometimes, no matter how much empathy you have for someone, it won't be possible to satisfy them completely. There are many reasons why some individuals don't like specific changes at work. Others will always find justification for dissatisfaction, whether it's warranted or not. Some people don't like change.
Regardless of who is right or wrong about the situation, you have to accept the reality of the problem. Strive to understand yourself and others better and use this knowledge to improve conditions.
5. Adopt a 'Why Not?' Attitude
It's easy to say yes sometimes and easy to say no other times. At the beginning of a significant project, it's best to adopt an open-minded attitude regardless of how you feel about the idea. Just remember, everything is negotiable when dealing with humans.
Stick to the facts and data that you have available, but also let yourself be flexible. By adopting a positive approach to change, you will get buy-in quickly and avoid potential delays.
6. Keep Communication Open & Honest
One word: transparency! Once all parties agree on the topic in question, then there should be no room for ambiguity. If you promise one thing and deliver another, sooner or later, you'll end up disappointed in both places.
Make sure that you communicate every decision made during the process and stick to that policy whenever possible. Don't expect confidentiality once the project gets underway, either. Transparency goes a long way towards building trust between all parties involved.
7. Understand How to Deal With Unpopular Changes
A lot of people will oppose any change from day one because they fear the unknown. They will find faults with the new idea and may even attempt to sabotage attempts to implement it. This tactic might seem practical at first, but it will backfire in the long term. Don't worry, though, if you find yourself in a position where you are forced to alter your plan. Know how to deal with this situation if you want to have a successful change management stint.
8. Stay Calm
Whether you're implementing the change or reacting to it, you MUST remain calm. Remember that people don' think all the time logically. In most cases, emotions outweigh logic.
Even if your stakeholders aren't happy with anything, stay calm. When you show emotion, you give off a negative signal, making your point lose its effect and impact. Be assertive without being aggressive. As one of the successful business leaders, you should learn to let go of anger than hold onto it.
9. Allow Everyone to Speak Their Mind
Giving stakeholders enough time to voice their concerns about a particular issue helps build consensus and smooth transition. Also, don't ignore anyone's views!
Everyone has different opinions, and these opinions often contradict one another. Don't forget that each individual wants things done their way, so they may not be willing to compromise. Use change initiatives that try to include everyone in discussions and encourage all viewpoints to be voiced.
Additionally, you must know when to walk away from the conversation. Remember that nothing is absolute. Change can happen both ways. It would help if you balanced your personal opinion with what your change team wants. Ultimately, you need to weigh everything out and choose what is best.
It doesn't necessarily mean giving in to pressure, however. Sometimes you need to walk away from an argument for your sanity. It shows that you respect others and are open to constructive criticism. That's much more valuable than sticking up for yourself all the time.
10. Make Both the Rational and the Emotional Case for Change
To make a case for change, you first have to identify key stakeholders and the benefits of doing it. There may be many reasons why specific changes need to take place, but the fact remains that they need to be explained clearly to convince people.
Once you understand why you need to change, figure out how it fits your overall business strategy. Then, explain the advantages associated with your proposed change. Explain how it would benefit them, as well as justify any costs related to making it happen.
At the same time, it's essential to create a transition plan. It's necessary to prepare for the transition period after a significant change. Creating a plan will help change managers address the issues that arise and ensure that the transition goes smoothly.
Finally, ensure to consider all options. When deciding whether or not to pursue a specific course of action in the change process, always consider all options before choosing one. You never know what other alternatives exist. It could be something completely unexpected that makes total sense.
If you notice that the exact change took place somewhere else recently, you should ask for advice. Don't hesitate to approach people experienced in organizational change management when implementing change.
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He’s a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.