Change Management

Change management is a structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented, and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved. The focus is on the wider impacts of change, particularly on people and how they, as individuals and teams, move from the current situation to the new one.

Change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people, normally problems arise. Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. These aspects are especially relevant to managing personal change.

Before starting any change programme it is crucial to clearly establish:

  • What do we want to achieve with this change?
  • Why do we want to achieve it?
  • How will we know that the change has been achieved?
  • Who is affected by this change?
  • How are they likely to react to it?
  • How much of this change can we achieve ourselves?
  • What parts of the change, if any, do we need help with?

Many people are fearful of anything that changes the status quo. Attempts to “sell” change rarely succeed and if pressing people, will generate varying degrees of resistance. Instead, change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with it. Change can be unsettling, so the manager logically needs to be a settling influence.

Check that people affected by the change agree with, or at least understand, the need for change, and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed, and to be involved in the planning and implementation of the change. Use face-to-face communications to handle sensitive aspects of organisational change management. Encourage your managers to communicate face-to-face with their people too, if they are helping you manage an organisational change. Email and written notices are extremely weak at conveying and developing understanding.

If you think that you need to make a change quickly, probe the reasons. Is the urgency real? Will the effects of agreeing a more sensible time-frame really be more disastrous than presiding over a disastrous change? Quick change prevents proper consultation and involvement, which leads to difficulties that take time to resolve.

Responsibility for managing change lies with the management of the organisation and they must manage the change in a way that employees can cope with it. People and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers, and tolerance and compassion from the leaders and executives. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than clever process and policy. Employees need to be able to trust the organisation.