In the first of a two-part series, we examine the concept of Change Management and recommend ways executives can best prepare for the blitzkrieg.
Globalization, glocalization, privatization, outsourcing, mergers and acquisitions are just some of the revolutionary changes encompassing organizations today. The volatile environments in which corporations operate make it easy for senior management to ignore what is often called the ‘soft side’ of doing business. A recent Harvard Business study shows that shorter, more frequently evaluated projects are more likely to succeed than longer ones evaluated more than two months apart.
Senior management’s fear of employee reaction often keeps them from successfully implementing change. Industry analysts believe that the ‘human aspect’ becomes the most important issue once change management initiatives are rolled out.
The following are the key aspects of any change management initiative:
1. Create ownership. Whenever change hits a company, people seek answers to their questions. If left unanswered, such questions can give way to dissent and mistrust. The credibility of the management executing the change also comes under scrutiny. Teams with nominated or appointed leaders should be created to dissipate such a scenario, which can dampen the change objectives in any firm, big or small. Appointed leaders operating in small teams are more effectual than the manager you last saw at the annual conference.
2. Communicate the change. Good communication is the biggest carrier of any proposed change. Senior leadership may assume the communication process to be effective, even when it is not. Focus on the formal communications network should be interspersed with informal networks. Research has shown that various communication channels have different effectiveness levels: a face-to-face conversation will always work better than an email, which at best serves to reinforce.
3. Create layers and address each group. Groups created with the objective of successfully implementing change should be small. The average employee feels lost in a maze of people and keeps his questions and objections, if any, to himself. As change cascades throughout the organization, each group should feel involved and empowered; each individual should feel they have contributed towards the successful implementation of the efforts.
4. Address the human aspect. Any change effort requires people to reconcile and adjust to the new situation in which they find themselves. As job functions are moved around and responsibilities reassigned, people will be led by their personal agendas. If not given the credence of being an important part of the organization, employees are vulnerable and susceptible to the ‘water-cooler’ conversations that often act as rumor mills, impeding the change process.
5. Create checkpoints and feedback loops. A feedback loop helps take stock of the current company culture and the ‘voice of the employee’. This helps in making modifications to the change management rollout plan, which can be an effective way to concurrently make amends, rather than making iterations only at the end of the engagement. Creation of a feedback loop also tells employees that they are being heard, and their suggestions are valued.
To be continued… IBI