‘Change’ is an over-used term in organisational speak and there is a whole language that describes change in organisations. Change is a vital part of life and business – It can be hard at first, messy in the middle but , if done right, will be worthwhile at the end. A general rule of thumb is the greater the change within and across the organisation, the more important is the need to well manage that change.
We assume our teams have the resilience to work through smaller changes, like on-boarding new staff, or changing suppliers. However, when changes impact an organisation’s core purpose or culture, the best organisations will prioritise managing the change process by keeping their communications channels open, being transparent in their decision making, and perhaps consulting externally, to keep operating effectively and serving its clients and customers.
Open Communications Channels
One of the key elements of managing an effective change management process is to establish clear and transparent two-way communication. It means establishing several channels for both employer and employee to provide open and honest thoughts and feelings at every stage of the process. It gives employees the tools to be heard, and enables management to articulate why particular decisions have been made.
Transparency in Decision Making
In most successful consultations, it’s never about satisfying everyone but honestly listening to the range of views and expressions, and then explaining why the ultimate decision is made. Providing feedback that shows people were heard and their views considered is important. How often have you heard someone say “why did they bother asking us if they weren’t prepared to listen?” – it isn’t about accepting everyone’s views, but being transparent about your decision-making.
Good change management involves both substance and process. It is essential you clearly communicate why change is necessary and provide a timeline as to when specific changes will be made. However, communication is not the same as consultation. The how, when and where of consultation will very much depend upon the type of organisation, and in particular, its culture: over-consultation can contribute to frustration and decreasing staff morale; poor consultation leaves a vacuum which people will fill with their own opinions based on half-truths and hearsay. It can also lead to increased feelings of frustration and anxiety as well as impede productivity, with time lost on addressing rumours, rather than positively contributing to change consultation.
At times, change management will dovetail with organisational restructuring. Where the proposed changes involve ceasing some services or product lines, or closing some organisational units, you may need to consult and communicate wider (for example, with trade unions) and consider harnessing the skills of an organisational relations specialist.
It is important to never lose sight of the fact that management aren’t the only people invested in the future of the organisation. Some employees spend more time at work than with their families, and so it is understandable that they will have emotional connections to their work and colleagues, and anything that threatens those relationships may be difficult for them.
When you regularly consult – share information and actively listen to, and where possible act on, the feedback from your teams – you can harness their emotional connection to the organisation, and create a positive environment for change to occur.
Contact Faileen James for professional assistance with Change Management.
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