Dec 4, 2012

Posted by in Essays | 0 Comments

Change Management – a personal perspective

Let’s be clear right up front: I don’t like change. I’m a creature of habit and I like set routines. But, just like being in a marriage, I can’t get my own way all the time and I have to accommodate this thing called change. There’s been plenty of it around our organisation of recent years but in many ways that simply reflects our wider society. Change is everywhere and all the time these days. So, how can we cope?



  • Agree expectations


The most fundamental starting point is to determine just what change you have to cope with. A lot of angst can be avoided if there is a clear understanding of what is required. First, what is the expected objective? It sounds trite to say you have to know where you’re going if you’re to have any chance of getting there. But it’s true. And once you know the destination, what route are you going to take? Is it the one that is being expected of you?


At the leadership and management level, it is vital that there is a clear understanding of corporate objectives and the specific role of individuals in delivering those objectives. Like a jigsaw puzzle, many players can put the pieces together but if the objective is to be achieved there is only ONE way the picture can come together. If staff are to be united in achieving specified objectives, the messages they hear from their supervisors, managers and directors must be clear and consistent.



  • Do I want to change?


We all have a choice to accept change or reject it. Once we know the expectations being placed on us, are we willing to do what is necessary to meet them? This is always a very personal matter and subject to our own unique experiences, circumstances and desires. The hard part is being very sure you do want to make the change. Just as being half-pregnant is not feasible, making only some of the changes being expected of you is not going to cut the mustard. Real soul-searching is often needed at this stage, not just self-delusion. Sometimes we have to evaluate our whole lives in order to make the right assessment of our situation. Nobody said it was easy but often it’s unavoidable.



  • Who else has to make a change?


If we are in charge of staff or a member of a team, is change required of them, too? As leaders we have to then make very clear to those who depend on us for guidance just what the change expectations are. We need to place those expectations into context so that we do not frighten the horses. That is, life is a yin and yang pendulum. For the negatives we encounter there is almost always an equivalent number of positives. Change may be uncomfortable but it is not necessarily bad or unrewarding.



  • How can we make the transition easier?


Providing staff with an understanding of why change is necessary – and the benefits it will hopefully bring – is essential to achieving success. Change management is a transactional process and like any transaction, people will only engage in it if they perceive something of benefit to themselves. So, be upfront. Spell out why things need to be done differently and be very aware of the need to emphasise the positives. Try to set parameters for how much change is going to be necessary and what timeframe it is to be delivered in. It is important to let your team know what is involved so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they wish to go on the journey.



  • Enlist their help


People will always commit more readily to something if they feel they have a stake in it. By making clear what needs to be achieved, team members – if properly involved – may provide surprising ways of securing the objective. As leaders and managers we don’t have to have all the answers. Engage those around us and be surprised by their insights and suggestions. If they can find ways to make the transformation easier and more enjoyable, then everyone comes out a winner.



  • How much change is possible?


Except for extreme sport enthusiasts, pushing the boundaries as far as they will go is rarely a good idea. The concept here is that change doesn’t have to mean doing different things. It can mean doing the same things – but better. I have been stunned in recent times by the undiscovered capacities and competencies of my own staff. They have a great track record of producing quality results but – having been requested to undertake more and different challenges – they have responded so well I have been amazed. That I didn’t better appreciate their capabilities before is my ‘fault’. I didn’t want to push them too hard. The reality, however, is that they have relished the opportunity and are reinvigorated by what they have achieved. New benchmarks have been set and we won’t look back. It wouldn’t have happened, though, if they hadn’t been challenged to change.



  • Am I committed to change?


As a leader, there is no place to hide if you want to champion change. If you don’t walk the talk you will tear your reputation to shreds among staff and colleagues. Credibility is too valuable to squander by indulging in talk without action. As executives our actions are constantly being assessed – by those above, those below and those alongside. It’s not always comfortable but if we want to be leaders, that is a price we have to pay. It doesn’t matter if staff suspect we are afraid of change or concerned by it – we are allowed to be human. They don’t expect infallibility – just integrity. We burn their respect and support if we demand more of them than we are willing to deliver ourselves.



  • Change – what change?


Finally, there is one lesson that stands out from all the others. It seems like the hardest thing to do but it makes everything else comparatively easy. It is accepting that change is both inevitable and constant. I’m a work-in-progress on this issue because I instinctively cling to old habits and attitudes. But even I have realised that accepting change as a natural condition of work and life makes it far less daunting.




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