How do you manage change in the workplace in a way that supports everyone, while working towards organizational goals? We sat down with Suzanne Bali-Courtemanche to discuss the process of change and how to implement changes in your workplace.
In the past few years, organizations of all shapes and sizes have had to make monumental changes to the way work is conducted. Change is a constant and workplaces are always undergoing it. Whether from internal factors like scaling your business, launching new revenue streams, updating your technology portfolio, or through external factors like new competitor offerings, changes in customer preferences, or a disruption to the market you operate in, you must be diligent of change.
A lot of these factors can push an organization to change, however, often there will be employees who pull back or who are resistant to change. This can lead to tension between employees, internal conflicts, and resignations. This is human, however, if organizations are not set up to adapt to change, they risk falling behind consumer expectations, resulting in them being eclipsed by competitors that are evolving with the times. But how do you create an organization that incorporates change as part of the culture?
Change management is the systematic approach and application of knowledge, tools and resources to deal with change. It involves defining and adopting corporate strategies, structures, procedures and technologies to handle changes in external conditions and the business environment. Effective change management goes beyond project management and technical tasks undertaken to enact organizational changes and involves leading the “people side” of major change within an organization. The primary goal is to successfully implement new processes, products and business strategies while minimizing negative outcomes.
Source: SHRM Toolkit: Managing Organizational Change.
What does that look like in practice? According to Suzanne Bali-Courtemanche of Business Sherpa Group (BSG), change management essentially represents the people side of change, and therefore incorporating the notion of ‘change management’ into project management initiatives is key to the overall success of change initiatives. This begins by ensuring that project/change initiatives have a tangible and clear purpose that makes sense and are not merely about chasing down what’s shiny and new. Having a structure is key.
Setting the Stage
Before you make any changes in the workplace, you must prepare to address concerns and reactions from your staff. Recognize that everyone is different and not everyone deals with change in the same way. People will, predictably, have many questions about the change that is going on, and you need to have concrete answers for them. Sharing the answers to these frequently asked questions will help align and equip project team members to achieve the desired outcome of the changes taking place.
Expect baseline questions to include:
- What’s the business case for the project/change initiative, or in the absence of a business case, how does it support our strategic priorities?
- Who is leading the project/change?
- What are we trying to fix, achieve, or improve, and what are the consequences of not moving forward with the initiative?
- What resources (budgets, work tools, training, additional staff, etc.) will be made available to help successfully carry out the project design, development, and deployment?
- What’s the target date for implementation, what is the rationale for that timing?
- Who will be positively impacted or negatively impacted by the change? Why?
Opportunities for Contribution
One way to strive for alignment and reduce friction when undergoing change is to bring employees into the process of designing and implementing change, so they can have input in how to adapt their work processes and contribute to the final success metrics. This all begins by enlisting management team members as their connections to their peers can enable a better adaptation process, with the change seeming to be less top-down, more collaborative.
Change in and of itself brings unique opportunities but can also create challenges at the team and individual levels. Avoid ‘tunnel vision’ by mixing up project managers with individuals that have different backgrounds and mindsets, ranging from early adopters to individuals who may resist change, who still have valuable insight.
A team managing change will ideally look like:
- Leadership or management team members
- Employees whose work may be impacted by the project
- Other relevant internal and external stakeholders (i.e.: clients)
Process of Change
With your change management team organized, you can now begin the process of building a plan to support change. However, for this to work in a true collaborative fashion, there are a few more things to consider. Everyone must at least acknowledge that they are here because what worked in the past may no longer be sustainable for the future, a person’s ego takes up space and hinders creativity, so leave that at the door!
Next, the team should collaborate on high level goals that they hope to achieve with the project, developing a plan which supports the goals through action items, assigns responsibility, and how to monitor progress. This way, members can each contribute in a way that caters to their strengths, and there are signs to spot when someone may be having trouble with their deliverables. Frequent communication between project team members is important, and so is being clear and consistent in messaging outside of the team. This begins with working very closely with management team members and knowing who else needs to be informed of what and when so there are no surprises.
Finally, when rolling out the new process to the workplace at large, be prepared for confusion and apprehension from those reluctant to change. This is completely normal and human, so rather than being reactive in your approach, think proactively by identifying why someone might be resistant to this change, be it for personal or professional reasons. Address those underlying concerns individually, or in Q&A sessions so employees have a chance to be heard.
There are a few ways to go about implementing a change. Some processes require a parallel implementation, running two systems at the same time and slowly switching people into the new system. Another approach is switching completely in an instant, but this can cause great upheaval with people who might be resistant to change. An optimal approach to implementing a process or change in the workplace is through a gradual phased approach, letting people familiarize themselves to the new changes and giving them space to evaluate and ask questions to better their understanding.
What are the best change management models in 2022?
- Lewin’s Change Management Model
- McKinsey 7-S Model
- Nudge Theory
- The ADKAR Change Management Model
- Kübler-Ross Change Curve
- Bridges’ Transition Model
- Satir Change Model
- Kotter’s 8-Step Theory
- Maurer 3 Levels of Resistance and Change Model
- Deming Cycle (PDCA)
Finally, change can be hard, even if you say you’re a fan of it, breaks in our routines can cause distress when things don’t go as planned. Be understanding of this factor, realizing that more often than not, everyone is committed to the success of where they work, they just might take a little more time to get on board. Make sure to celebrate wins on the individual and organizational levels throughout the process.
Despite change being constant and at times being completely disruptive, we can still successfully work through it together by being inclusive, plan for reactions, create spaces to make mistakes, and make sure nobody is forgotten in the process. If you’re implementing change in your organization and are facing difficulty, sometimes an outside set of eyes can help you reimagine your approach. That’s where we can help, as we have helped dozens of businesses realign themselves. Want to discuss change? Contact us through the link below.