Major changes within an organisation often occur due to projects – projects that change the way people work and disrupt the status quo. And as we all know the world of work is becoming increasingly project-focused as businesses seek to stay ahead of, and take advantage of, rapidly changing and advancing technology. So change may be disruptive but it is also a way for businesses to grow and thrive and for their people to do likewise – if they are willing to grasp the change and the opportunities it presents.
So here is a simple 3 step guide on how to manage major or complex change within an organisation. Of course, it can be, and usually is, difficult to manage complex change successfully and often requires the external help of change management experts. But, nevertheless, every organisation involved in projects that disrupt the status quo should be aware of the basic principles of change management.
Communicate With The People Affected
One of the most effective ways to support people through organisational change is to communicate with them candidly and honestly. Glossing over the fact that, for instance, there will be job losses does nothing to allays fears – quite the opposite in fact. It can also have unwanted consequences such as valued employees choosing to leave the organisation instead of facing the uncertainty. This risks losing experienced people you had planned to retrain on the new systems or processes.
Instead of simply forcing through the change (an approach that is likely to result in antipathy towards the change and a reluctance to accept it) openly acknowledge that major change is happening – but communicate clearly the reasons why. It is better for people to hear the truth, even if that truth is unpalatable, than for assumptions and rumours to spread.
So communicate as much as you possibly can about the change and why. Keep formal and informal lines of communication open so everyone feels connected with and part of the change. Find out how people are really feeling and empathise with those feelings – never dismiss valid concerns and fears.
Highlight The Personal Opportunities
Change, of course, can be unsettling, but just as it is a route for a business to take advantage of new opportunities so also does it open up new possibilities and opportunities for individuals to learn new skills and progress their career. Make sure to highlight these opportunities and make it clear that there will be a chance to attend facilitation skills courses and other training courses so that people gain the new skills they need to work successfully within the new organisational environment.
Help people identify the part they will play in the new workplace environment, provide them with the skills they will need and then encourage them to grasp the opportunity.
Know When To Bring In The Professionals
People are often thrown into the role of change manager without the necessary skills and experience. Just as individuals needs to have the right training so they can develop the skills to embrace the changed status quo – so too do the people managing the change need the right skills to manage it successfully.
For organisations frequently involved in major change it makes sense to train their own people by sending them on accredited change management courses. However, organisations that either don’t have the right people who can be trained, or are unlikely to embark on major change often, may prefer to bring in external change management experts to guide them through the inevitable disruption.
Either way organisational change doesn’t just happen (at least not successfully) – it needs to be carefully managed to reap the real benefits.