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The thought of dealing with the complexities and uncertainties surrounding change may give you sleepless nights. It may be hard to avoid that; after all change can often be messy and uncertain, and a major cause of workplace stress. This recipe may help
make the process less fraught.
Serves – any organisation
Preparation – time to know and understand the change that is taking place
Cooking time – 4 weeks or more, depending on the size and complexity of the change
- stock attitudes
- a plan
- purpose and objectives
- the urgent and the important
- the past
- stock attitudes
- the vision
- personality type
- transition time
- leadership unity
- Carefully review your plan for change rather than acting on the hoof, ensuring you have a clear purpose and objectives. This both clarifies your own thinking and makes it easier to explain the reasoning and process to those affected. Remember, there is no such thing as isolated change, there is always a ripple effect. Try and anticipate the consequences!
- In planning the change process, distinguish between the urgent and the important. Divide issues into (a)urgent and important, (b)urgent but not important, (c)not urgent but important, (d) not urgent and not important. This helps If the change is to be effective, the important issues must be addressed but not all of them may be urgent.
- Take the past of the organisation that is still remembered and allow people to reminisce. But also, gently encourage them to see that what may have worked well doesn’t work so well now, and it’s time to move on. This will help to challenge the stock attitudes that usually come out when change is mooted – “We’ve always done it this way and things work perfectly well as they are” or “It’s not what we agreed” or “It may be a good idea for them, but not for us — we’re different” Of course, this may be harder to do if the change has been forced upon you, for example by funders cutting grants.
- Share the vision of what your organisation expects to achieve. The communication of this vision should be clear and transparent – try to avoid people suspecting a hidden agenda. Listen, and be seen to be responsive to concerns if at all practicable – don’t be afraid to make some concessions if these will help to achieve “buy in” This builds up trust and mutual respect and eases the process.
- Be aware that you will need to vary your approach depending on the individual affected. Different people respond to change in different ways depending on their personality type. Put yourself in their shoes and on their behalf ask the question: “What’s in it for me?” Of course, you would expect to deal with the likely “winners” and “losers” differently but bear in mind not all supposed “winners” will greet your proposals positively – for example some offered new opportunities may be unhappy if their colleagues had lost out.
- Identify those people who are “on side” at an early stage of the process and ask if they could be champions or advocates of the change, if you think they would be credible and suitable. The right people with credibility may influence attitudes more positively than the leadership team.
- Try to identify and address reasons for resistance to change. These may include fear of loss of control, not being told soon enough by the leadership (instead picking up the information via rumours and gossip), loss of face, concern about having more work or work they are not competent to perform, past resentments, uncertainty, fear of change itself.
- If possible, allow for transition time, in most cases people don’t accept change instantly but many will come around to accepting it over a time period, the length of which will depend on the enormity of the change, what’s at stake and how resistance is dealt with. Some early resisters after reflection can become your greatest advocates.
- Employ leadership unity – the leadership team must be united and speak with one voice while modelling the changes they are steering. The leadership team provides support, direction, and structure for the change. Any differences of opinion should be ironed out otherwise they could fester and be seized on by those opposed to the change, jeopardising the process.