Manage Change Before It Manages You

Just as shifting city and home and moving to a new place has its initial period of anxiety, a change in business direction or in leadership in the organisation, brings about a period of anxiety, uncertainty and a plethora of questions 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 done; it brings about a fair bit of response. Some good, some not so good and some downright harmful 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) goes into 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 three groups have an impact on the brand and its’ experience: 

1.   Enthusiasts: In their eagerness to contribute to the new, changed business direction, the enthusiasts rush into action without deeply evaluating the long-term benefit of the actions to the brand and the ability of the brand to deliver on the changed direction. Often more manpower and resources are taken up on these changed new actions if they are not evaluated for effectiveness. Enthusiasts often times end up working long hours alone leading to quick burnouts when operating at very high stress levels due to continuous delivery demands of the added new tasks.

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

3. Resistant Brigade: Often the largest group, these try to 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. All the resistance group succeeds in doing is wasting critical time and damaging the brand image through their inability to move forward.

 

How do we bring groups 2 & 3 around to see the positives in the new strategic direction or change that the organisation is undertaking:

  1. Transparency:  Line managers have to understand the change and explain, at length, how that change is beneficial 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 to ensure successful delivery of key projects that would aid in bringing the required change. This team should be empowered with the required authority in order to put in place new processes to enable change to take hold.
  3. HR in the Forefront: HR needs to be at the forefront in terms of providing senior management the right team, skills and competency wise, in order to help deliver required changes. Internal talent development becomes a priority for HR and is the starting point for staff performance evaluations.
  4. Deadline: An end target date for achievement of certain critical projects needs to be up in front. Critical projects that affect the brands’ reputation should be selected from the pool of projects that is in active stage and be project managed through specific project teams.

Following this 4 steps approach would enable an organisations’ leadership to bring about groups 2 & 3–followers & the resistance brigade— by having them involved in the critical projects, with each individual having a specific task aligned with their respective job-function.

What’s the benefit in doing this?

  1. Easier management of key projects to achieve success leading to revenue growth and establishing the desired brand reputation.
  2. Having in place a core team, a second line of command so to speak,  across critical functions upon whom senior management can depend to take the brand forward.
  3. Having in place efficient processes that aid in forward planning of daily work.
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