The primary difference between winners and losers in business today is their ability to respond to the pace of change. Businesses are trying to make a fundamental change in the way they operate. The pace of change keeps accelerating and organisations keep pouring all their executive energy in search of ever higher levels of service, product, staff satisfaction and agility. As they do so, the treadmill continues to move faster, leaving companies either improving very slowly or not at all.
Studies have shown that the problem is not the change programs but how change is implemented. First and foremost, management must understand the following; why the organisation needs change and how it may be implemented. It is also of paramount importance that the entire management team fully supports the change. Once this is achieved, involving as many employees as possible to make greater interest and having a more active role in the business will enable the change to occur. Problems arise when the whole burden of change is made to rest on a few people. Resultantly the number committed to change is too small.
Organisational change efforts often run into some form of human resistance. Staff may experience a lot of uncertainty and emotional turmoil. They will then openly try to undermine the change efforts. Their main reason is misunderstanding the change and it implications. It may also be the fear of losing something that was of value. Changes happening nowadays have mostly to do with enhancing organisational efficiency and this is usually perceived as a threat to jobs. Another fear is the ability to develop new skills and associated behaviours that suit the changes. Such change appears like it advertently requires staff to change too much and too quickly.
Leadership’s role is to ensure that all the above mentioned dynamics to effective change management are embraced. The importance of awareness and communication can never be over emphasised. Communication may replace all the resistance and fear with excitement and engagement. Before the actual change program is rolled out, management should robustly educated staff and utilise communication structures such as Workers’ Committees. By making use of their own representatives, communicating change ideas assist staff to see the need for change. This communication may be extended to the rest of the staff through face to face interactions. Communication must be transparent to avoid unwarranted expectations and should not be marred by empty promises. As leaders allow feedback from staff and review it. This builds confidence in staff and promotes an understanding that change is needed to remain competitive.
The implementation process should also be communicated and planned effectively. If for example it’s a systems upgrade, then training on the new system must be done before installation. Customer satisfaction change improvements usually go well with training of staff and communicating what is expected from the employees and how their performance will be measured. Along the way to change, where skills gap is identified, employees must be trained and mentored to cover those gaps. By so doing management creates real agility because every function, office, and staff member becomes eager to rise to the new challenge brought about by change. These interventions properly create a landmark shift in the organisational operating state or its culture.
From experience the other imperatives for effective change are
When we implement the above, we will manage to significantly alter the way people experience their own influence and identity as well as how they deal with conflict and learning. In the process we should constantly seek for vital signs.
By its very nature change has a way of scaring people into inaction. For operations and processes change, the directly involved departments must drive the change. If its culture change then the HR department must act as the change agent championing the whole process. Such global change should never be viewed as a need for one category of staff.
History or experiences play a crucial role in the success of a change initiative. If previous change programmes were poorly communicated, unsystematically implemented and never evaluated, it becomes difficult to convenience employees on the need to change let alone have them buy-into the program. Implementing change may be complex but it has become inevitable for organisations to succeed. Leaders it is worthwhile to invest in good change management training to equip ourselves with essential skills. Another dynamic to change management is its sustainability. Monitoring systems that encourage the desired change must be in put in place. Ironically, the pace at which organisations have to adapt to change may mean some changes are overtaken by events in the operating environment. How soon organisations are able to roll out change programs have therefore become key. This has supported the need to have fully fledged Project Managers in robust organisations that thrive on change.
In conclusion participative effort and management support are central tenets to any effective change process.
Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com