Managing in times of change & managing change in times of crisis
This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a manager and a leader. I also have come to believe that managing change is one of the most important issues leaders face today and a critical skill to master for any successful organisation to continue to grow and remain competitive and profitable.
People do not like change, even if the leader believes and knows that change is not only necessary but will lead to success and pleasure. One of my wise councillors continually told me “ even pain can be a comfort zone” and I had to learn that just because I understood that the change was needed and would bring improvement to the business and the employees’ careers, people rejected change on principle. It makes people fearful, suspicious and unsettled. They would rather remain in the known, even if they are not happy, than make the leap into the unknown.
In the process of change I also had to learn to continuously check whether my team was behind me. I am by nature an impatient person and whilst I was charging ahead on the beach waving the flag, I had to learn to check that I actually had my followers there with me!
Always beware of change for the sake of it – for example, doing things differently just because everyone else is or just because you are the new boss and the new broom must sweep clean. In the same way a person cannot be 100% bad, a company or team that you have taken over is not 100% in need of an overhaul. Change must always be calm and considered, and seen to be so, even when the situation demands quick decisions. First find out what and who is working in the organization or team, and then adapt the winning procedures to suit your strategy and vision.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
It is important to recognise the type of people who resists change. Most likely it is those employees who are “experts in the old”. Their fear is that they may not be seen to be so valuable and clever in the new dispensation. People who see no success are also very resistant to change as are the timid or uncommitted.
Napoleon Bonaparte said: “A leader is a dealer in hope”. It is the task of the manager and leader to showcase hope in the future and what success the change will bring. It is critical for open, honest and direct communication to continuously take place. Just making an announcement is not enough, you have to be in touch with your team and organisation throughout the process and be willing to continue to reiterate the reasons for the change, have regular progress updates, take temperature checks and continue to preach the positive outcome.
I always tried to ensure that my teams were fit for change, in the same way a sports team has to be game fit. In this way small and large change was an accepted norm for my team and meant that we could positively embrace change. “Just make the decision” became our motto because we understood that once a decision was made and it turned out to be the wrong one, we could quickly and decisively rectify it by another decision. Indecision and apathy is the enemy, not wrong decisions.
It is quite normal for people to move back and fro between the different stages in the change process (denial, anger, acceptance etc.) Sometimes it is just not possible to seamlessly move from one stage to the other. We need to go back and experience some of the emotions again, until they make sense to us and until we are ready to move to the next stage. It is equally important not to skip a stage as the process of managing the change will then be incomplete.
Important however is the fact that, unless you have experienced all of the emotions as described above, you will not be able to embrace change and successfully implement it in your life. Understanding the different emotions and the process of change that all people go through, you will find the management of change in your own lives and within your own team easier to define and manage.
Remember that change frightens most people. The rule with change is ‘as much change as is necessary, as little as you can get away with’. That said, half-hearted or insufficiently radical change is the worst kind to deal with.
Consultation and communication is the key to managing change. Listening is vital: consultation is a two-way process.
“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson
Some thoughts on change:
Don’t wait for a crisis. People or companies sometimes only institute much needed changes after a crisis has forced them to. Business is about identifying and managing risk and therefore a crisis should be averted by implementing change timeously.
Frustration is a sign that change is needed. Think about the issues that are currently frustrating you in your professional or private life. These are the issues that you need to attend to.
Face reality. Do not fool yourself or your stakeholders about the true health of your business, but rather face reality as soon as possible and then implement whatever is necessary to rectify or improve your business vision.
Change is about pain, more pain and only then pleasure. Be prepared to understand and face the pain of change whilst keeping the pleasure (the vision) uppermost in your mind, and through effective communication also uppermost in the minds of your team.
“No one can go back and change a bad beginning, but anyone can start now and create a successful ending.” – Anon
To view Company Profile and Course – click here