What is Change Management?

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According to Forbes magazine, change management is an important tool because it is very hard for people and companies to change. When it comes to corporations that are spread around the globe, or those that are entrenched in cherished traditions, most of their employees react negatively to change. Below expounds on the basic principles of change management.

The Art of Change

When organizations implement initiatives to improve quality or performance, this often comes with formal changes to processes, technology, job roles and organizational structures. It is ultimately the employees who must change how they work, think and behave. If the majority of employees are unsuccessful in their attempts to transition or embrace new ideas, the organization’s initiative will fail. Change-based management is the discipline that guides how leaders empower, prepare and support employees to successfully adopt changes that drive organizational success and deliverables. Change-based management provides a structured and systematized approach for helping employees mentally transition, adopt new ways and implement new processes.

The Three Levels of Change-based Management

First, individual change-based management requires leaders to understand how people experience and react to changes. This requires common sense and knowledge of industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology. Leaders must know what employees want to hear, who should deliver the message and why these choices matter. Leaders also need to know the optimal times to make change announcements, implement technology and teach new skills. Second, organizational change-based management provides leaders with the specific steps and project phases that must occur in order to leverage the acceptance and support of hundreds or thousands of employees. Third, enterprise change capability focuses on the company’s core competencies, competitive differentiation and traditional culture.

Humanize vs. Standardize

Change-base management is often resented or resisted because it objectively quantifies people and life changing decisions as mere numbers. This results in major people issues that are simply categorized as failure to move forward and embrace the future. These situations may result in employees losing their job, being demoted or unwillingly accepting the changes. Instead, leaders must create ownership by continually soliciting input and feedback. While the organization’s leadership does not have to adjust their plans based on complaints, they do need to respond to them in respectful and timely manners. This will eliminate superficial buy-in and passive agreements that end up sabotaging the project’s long-term success.

Case Study

Consider the case of a large health care organization that must move to a shared-services model of administrative support. Most likely, the HR department will spend months working with cross-functional teams to create detailed designs, consult with external experts and identify and remove problems. When the project is unveiled before hospital executives and shareholders, there may be unexpected resistance to the initial implementation. Top leaders themselves must first embrace the new ideas and approaches before they can challenge and motivate others to follow. Executives must collectively speak with one voice and model the target behaviors together. If executive teams are aligned and committed to the direction of change, the rest of the company will likely follow.

In order for change management to be successful, leaders must also assess the cultural landscape, prepare for the unexpected and speak with individuals one-on-one.

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