Establishing Change in Changing Times
This is not the first time that I am stating in an article that even change is not the only constant anymore, because even change is changing. We see it everyday: the speed of change today is much faster than it was 50 years ago, and still much slower than it will be 5 years from now!
Leaders in all workplaces are increasingly confronted with the phenomenon change. Some more often and more interfering than others, but none is really liberated from it. And even when change is not happening spontaneously - we all know after all how change-averse human beings are - it should be encouraged: Not for change's sake, but for the sake of the organization's existence.
If you, as a leader, want to successfully implement change in your organization, there are some points to consider:
* Determine first whether the change you envision is important; whether it will really benefit all stakeholders; and how.
* Develop a plan of implementation. Make sure the steps in that plan are worked out in detail and in logical sequence.
* Formulate the need for the change in understandable terms, just as you will present it to the ones who will have to deal with it.
* Target some change progressive people who will be able to help you pull the less change-minded ones over the edge, and make them part of your team of allies. These allies can become coaches in the change process.
* Increase the dissatisfaction regarding the status quo. This may sound rebellious at first sight, but unless you manage to make people see that things can get better for them than they are now, they will not cooperate with a change process.
* Link the envisioned change to key processes and performance measures. And set interim, assessable goals, so that all involved can keep track of the progress. Also, make sure that there are continuous reports on the progress toward the final goal.
* Establish a lively and well-oiled communication line between the change-leaders (your allies); the groups or units they lead; and yourself. The underlying idea here is that you create an environment that facilitates the open flow of ideas and information, which in turn will generate shared understanding, credibility, respect and trust. By aligning attitudes, you will build commitment to support project implementation efforts. Communication is, thus, a lifeline when change is happening. Nothing shuts people's dedication and trust down faster than inaccessibility. And remember: the communication should not only be excellent at the initiation of the change, but all through the implementation process.
* Empathize with those who have concerns. Many people who face change initiated from above, are suspicious about it, and therefore, fearful. Their fear may include a loss of control, uncertainty about how to act, a notion that the balance of power is shifting, a fear of failure and a concern that the change will threaten their careers. If not addressed, these issues soon lead to resistance, which might have been avoided if properly handled.
* Be open to suggestions from participants. You may have overlooked some issues, or the picture may alter while the change is being implemented: the market may crash; the product may become obsolete through a revolutionary invention from an unexpected source; the government may have launched a law that affects the process; to name a few possibilities. Being stubborn and single-minded in these cases will only lead to greater loss than you could have ever anticipated.
* Celebrate every victory. The earlier mentioned interim goals may be superb moments to do this, and thereby boost people's energy toward continuous efforts in achieving the major change.
In general it may be good to conclude by commenting that change is healthy, even if we don't like to be confronted with it. But it keeps us alert and on our toes, and it prevents us from falling in a long, unhealthy, unchallenging, dull, uneventful, spirit-impoverishing winter sleep.
About the Author: Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in 1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master's in Business Administration, and is currently a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. You may visit her web sites at http://www.joanmarques.com and http://www.spiritcounts.com
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