There's a rule in the management change game: If you don't manage the change it will manage you.
That means that to keep your changing organization moving in the right direction, you must keep change from running wild.Planning is a big part of managing change, as we saw in last week's column. In this column, the second in a series of three, you'll find suggestions for putting your transition plans into effect:
- Set up transition management teams to orchestrate big changes. Help the team think carefully about its task by having members discuss major changes they went through that were handled poorly.
- Sell the problem before selling the solution. Your staff will see the need for change before it is announced. And they might have some good ideas for solving the problems.
- Show employees how they and the organization as a whole will advance because of the change. One way to do this is in small meetings after the announcement has sunk in. Ask employees what they think the benefits will be for them. Let the advantages come out in a discussion instead of you dictating them.
- Recognize that any change also results in a losses for some. Warn employees about possible losses, such as attachments to people and to things, as well as turf and structure. Then let them grieve their losses, just as people grieve a loved one. They'll go through denial, anger, anxiety, sadness, disorientation and, finally, acceptance.
- Let people know that you see and understand their suffering. Tell them that you know it will cost them. But, for specific reasons, the change will stand. If you tell them, "Stop whining," you'll only drive their reactions underground, where they could be destructive. You may need to define acceptable ways to act out negative reactions.
- Find ways to compensate people for their losses. For example, some employees might need a different kind of status as trainers or mentors to compensate for the rank they lost when their jobs changed.
- Listen a lot throughout this process. Ask for employees' questions and concerns, listen to their complaints, hear their suggestions. Resist becoming defensive. Work hard to show that you accept their emotions.
- Use the time between announcement and implementation of changes to encourage creativity and get people involved in shaping the transition. People often are creative in this neutral time because they're not cramped by the old ways nor limited by new rules. This is the time to let people step back, think and help decide how things ought to go in the future.