Here’s how to manage work place change

Just as shifting city and home and moving to a new place has its initial period of anxiety, a change in business direction, similarly, brings about a scenario of anxiety and with it a plethora of questions (and actions) within an organisation.

Change in any form is uncomfortable for us humans. We are creatures of habit and habit breeds its own sense of comfort and discomfort. Take for example our daily work day routine. If one of the items in our daily ‘routine’ goes out of whack, we get irritated and at times, are at a bit of a loss.

Business activities are managed by humans and thus when an organisation implements a change from what it had been doing; it brings about a fair bit of response. Some good, some not so good and some downright detrimental to the business. The ‘enthusiasts’ (or early adopters) latch on to the big picture that the changed direction portrays and willingly start to move forward in the new direction. The ‘yes sir/no sir’ (followers) go onto a ‘wait and watch’ mode to try gauge which way is the wind blowing. Lastly comes the ‘resistant brigade’! A group who clings on desperately to yesteryears and falls back on the achievements of the past years.

Each of these groups effect the brand’s identity in many ways:

1.   Enthusiasts: In their eagerness to contribute to the new strategic direction rush into activity without deeply evaluating the ability of the brand to deliver on it and the long term benefit (of the activity) to the brand and recruiting necessary manpower to deliver on the new mandates. Often the enthusiasts end up being the “Lone Ranger”—working long hours and alone leading to quick burnouts when operating at very high stress levels due to continuous delivery demands of tasks.

2.  Followers: This group’s indecisiveness and inability to ask for clarity (and understanding) leads them to either do the work activity wrong or to take too long over it and thus deliver well after the timeline is gone. In effect, making the task inefficient.

3. Resistant Brigade: Often the largest group, these try and push back through the “this is how it was done” process with the intention that if continuous resistance can be applied by using defunct processes and bureaucratic red-tape  then the enthusiasts would either burn their fire out or leave (attrition). All the resistance group succeeds in doing is (i) wasting critical time and (ii) damaging the brand image.

So, how do we manage to bring group 2 & 3 around to see the positives in the new strategic direction or change that the business unit is undertaking:

  1. Transparency:  Line managers have to understand the change and explain, at length, how that change is beneficial (or required) and tie it back to the individual roles of staff and their function with regards to the effect it has on the brand’s identity.
  2. Top-down Leadership:  Senior management has to have, in place, a support ‘team’ selected from rank & file (so as to assist in the detail work) to ensure successful delivery of key projects that would help to bring about the required change. This team should be provided written mandate as authority to put in place new processes and work flow to enable work flow change to take hold.
  3. HR in the Forefront: HR needs to be at the forefront in terms of evaluation of staff’s skills and capabilities to deliver on the new work flow. Planning for training and skills up-gradation become a priority.
  4. Deadline: An end target date for achievement of certain critical projects needs to be up in front. Critical projects that affect the brand identity (and image) should be selected from the pool of projects that is in active stage and be project managed through specific project teams.

What is the benefit of doing this?

  1. Easier management of key projects that achieve success. Thus revenue growth coupled with establishing the desired brand identity and image.
  2. Establishing a core team, across critical functions, on which senior management can depend upon to take the brand forward.
  3. Having in place efficient work flow processes that aid in forward planning of daily work.

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