January 5, 2017
Change comes in all shapes and sizes—good, bad, big, and small. No matter what form it takes, change is a process that every single business goes through, and getting ahead of it can help you save time, money, and engagement.
In order to get out in front of change and harness its power, you must first realize that effective change always follows the same four steps: recognition, communication, loss identification, and future outlook.
Sounds simple enough, right? Not always. Last year, we went through some huge changes as Bluewolf became part of IBM. Even though we were well-prepared for that massive shift, we learned much more than we expected about our teams and what they need to embrace change. Below I've detailed some critical mistakes companies often make when executing change management programs.
Failing to recognize the impact of the change throughout the organization, even if it's positive.
Consider the impact of the change on employees, not just the business. Introducing a strategic initiative to increase sales by 33% will inherently require a change to organizational structure and employee behaviors to succeed. Will managers and accounts be shuffled? Will the chain of command change? Thinking about the change from an employee's perspective not only allows you to better prepare for the consequences of the change, it allows employees to feel heard and develop a desire to engage with it.
Letting the lines go silent in between big announcements.
If you're not talking to your employees, I guarantee they're talking to each other—and they will fill in any blank they can with insecurity that might lead to distrust and a perceived lack of transparency.
Eliminate this problem by communicating clearly and consistently throughout the change. Even if you don't have answers, make them aware of the process you're going through to get to the answer. Consider which of the following scenarios makes you feel more comfortable:
"When are you going to be home?" "I don't know." Or "When are you going to be home?" "I don't know, but I'm going to mail that package, stop by the grocery store, and then pick up the kids."
We feel more comfortable when we're informed of the journey to the result, so keep your employees in the loop throughout the change, not just when you have something new to announce.
Overlooking the inherent loss in change.
All change, even good change, is tied to loss, and loss is emotional. Be very clear about what's staying the same and what will be different. By identifying the specific changes, you allow employees to identify their actual amount of loss.
Further, telling them about the benefits of the change before they have time to process the loss often makes employees feel unheard and unappreciated. Ignoring their emotional need for processing time demonstrates a lack of empathy that can lead to resentment and low adoption rates of the new application or process being introduced.
Quitting while you're ahead.
Companies often think that managing change is a one and done process—that once the change is made and communicated they can punch out for the day. However, it's crucial to recognize that although it might not be visible, the next change is always right around the corner. Keep a consistent rhythm and cadence to your communication cycle to be prepared for new changes and keep your team in the habit of tuning in for updates. Regular communication builds trust, which will help make the next change cycle easier than the last.
Remember that no matter how big or small, change is always a process. Harness the power of this process in your own company. During your next implementation, policy change, or strategic initiative, keep an eye out for the pitfalls above as you proceed through the four steps of successful change.
For more advice on how to manage change and bring your employees up to speed, get in touch with our Change Management and Learning team.