Raise your hand if you've heard this wisecrack around your workplace lately:

The only thing that's for sure around here is that everything will change tomorrow.That might be exaggeration, but there is more than a little truth in it. Today's work world is a whirl of constant and rapid changes involving technology, suppliers, customers, employees, corporate and industrial structure and government regulation.

These changes can be as simple as installing a new phone system or changing performance-review procedures. Or they can be as complicated as layoffs or going after a new market niche.

Just about everyone resists change, even positive change. "Change . . . forces us to reorganize the pattern of meaning that we call reality," change management consultant William Bridges writes.

So helping your employees manage change is not as simple as saying, "Just do it."

In this column - and in the next two - you'll find practical ideas for helping your staff deal with change successfully.

This column covers preparing for change.

- Organizations that deal with change effectively have ditched slow-moving hierarchies, in-house turf battles and policies and practices that crush risk-takers. If your organization has some of these qualities, find ways to emphasize responsiveness, teamwork, individual responsibility and flexibility.

- Run through this checklist before you plan a significant change: How seriously does your organization need change? How well do the employees understand that need? How open is the organization to change?

How free is the organization from the trauma of past changes? Is the organization willing and able to take care of its people? Has it considered all the possible effects of this change? Do current behaviors mesh with the new vision?

- Don't underestimate the costs of making major changes. And don't overestimate the amount of support you'll get from your staff. Prepare for discontinuity, disorder, distraction and drooping productivity.

- Don't try to foist a major change on your people until all of your top management team buys into it.