Change management is one of those critical subjects that is believed to be complex and disconnected from this world. But it is not!
In an organization, change management focuses on specific objectives for employees and entities in a given context. Therefore, it is initiated, measured, and carried out in a specific manner.
Change management is a key ingredient for success in a world that experiences rapid changes and continuous evolution (such as health crisis and digital transformation). It is a symbol of resilience, adaptation, and collective intelligence. Moreover, change management is a discipline that every individual can easily understand.
This guide contains all the proof: the definition, existing obstacles, and practical tools that ensure successful change management.
Understanding Change Management
In a nutshell, change management can be defined as techniques and protocols through which an organization initiates and executes change in internal and external processes. It involves preparing and supporting employees, developing procedures for change, and measuring pre- and post-change efforts to ensure effective execution.
In an organization, change has a direct impact on three key areas:
- The firm itself: change of strategy, structure, and organization.
- Work: change in work procedures and technological use.
- Employment: advancement of payroll processes.
The handling of change, in a practical approach, follows the steps below:
- Defining objectives that the change will affect.
- Clear communication on the objectives, shared collaboratively throughout the organization.
- Appropriate training of all stakeholders in the company, if need be.
• Intentional and long-term support for the change in the company.
Why Is There So Much Talk Concerning Change Management?
For some time, change management has been a subject of so much ink. It is mainly because of the following characteristics:
Firstly, the sustainability of a company depends on successful change management. Secondly, adapted management of the human factor is a prerequisite for successful change management.
What often leads to failure is the perception that change management is a sophisticated process.
Suppose the human factor, in this case, the employees and their view of the firm, and the expected change, are excluded from the process; it risks encouraging second thoughts or rather disinclination.
In 2016, IFOP conducted a research study about the views of employees regarding change: here are the insights:
Change Is Attributed to The Company
93 percent of respondents agreed to have experienced a change in the past 3 years, at least once.
Change is Regarded as a Necessity But Creates Insecurity
78 percent of the correspondents said change is essential, 64 percent think it’s helpful, but over 50 percent argued it occurs too often and may become uncomfortable.
Change is Not Necessarily Beneficial to Employees
74 percent said the changes they experienced did not improve anything at work. In addition, 68 percent said it had not improved their work efficiency, while 69 percent claimed it had no impact on cohesion in the company.
Change Benefits the Business
Out of every two employees interviewed, one acknowledged that change impacted the company positively.
There is Little Support and Understanding of Change by Employees
67 percent of the correspondents thought that their managers don’t consider their feedback; the rest had not shared their thoughts on this subject. In addition, 1 out of 2 employees believed the management might not make any changes to the company.
The problem seems obvious here; change is expected in theory to improve the company’s functioning but act rather as a risk factor.
Challenges and Obstacles Surrounding Change Management in 2021
Critical Issues Continue to Arise
In the past, a company would operate based on a definite pattern to which parameters were added or discarded through top-down changes. Today, however, companies are adaptable. They act in a fluid and agile manner with the following goals in mind:
- To embrace a change management framework that comes with its own corporate culture.
- To consider taking on the change as a vital skill and to support managerial efforts that streamline company processes and promote growth.
The stakes are many, though: that of its commercial viability in an environment that is constantly changing, as well as its human effectiveness, at a period where the competition for the best talents and the unreliability of candidates continues to increase.
Understanding the Problems to Better By-pass Them
Whether in business or any other discipline, change may cause hesitancy that is common with any human system. And that is why the support of the human factor is instrumental to successful change management.
Here are some of the obstacles facing change management:
Resistance to Change
Literally speaking, change triggers a reaction of fear and anxiety associated with the uncertainty of the future. This is because the future will be different from the present if things were to change. Therefore, a person will undoubtedly lose something, habits, a familiar environment, etc.
It is normal to experience resistance when it comes to change. This, therefore, is a factor that must be considered in a change management strategy. If it is not managed well, it may result in four major reactions: argumentation, revolt, sabotage, and inertia.
The Mourning Curve
As stated above, the feeling of loss can be likened to mourning, a process that both managers and employees must carry out. This process also needs regular support. There are five distinct phases of mourning curve in the process of accepting change, they include:
- Shock or denial.
- Anger or fear.
- Sadness or depression.
- Acceptance/ search for meaning.
- New perspectives/ serenity.
Ignoring these human reactions may cause a lot of problems to the desired business transformation.
The Problem of Managing Various Teams
In regulated settings, quality system requirements trigger various touch points for investigations, documenting changes, and more.
The vast majority of these processes are inherent to actual documents such as work instructions, standard operating procedures, and so on; and partly touch on changes to the products and processes.
A change management program features best-practice logic for managing multiple teams. For example, does the quality department manage quality throughout your company? A reliable program for managing change considers the logic required to assign the right department to the right change processes and in a timely fashion.
Lack of Visibility in The Company Change Processes
The same way email alerts and dashboards help to harmonize processes, and they can also help a company stay on course and not lose sight of where it stands.
A well-defined change will take time to roll out throughout the company, especially in global environments. For this reason, you will need a centralized system for monitoring activities and which stage the change is in. This way, you can follow up quickly to ensure the decisions you make are compliance-driven to reduce risks in your company.
Challenges in Communication
Communication is the most crucial step throughout the change management process. Nonetheless, it is highly disregarded by most companies. More often than not, employees are surprised by new changes within the organization. Because there is no two-way communication, they may be reluctant to share their sentiments on the change. Consequently, leading to resistance, that may compromise the set procedures.
Therefore, communication planning is an ideal way to tackle challenges with the change management plan before they start. Notably, the management should design a communication strategy that addresses all stakeholders affected and ensures everyone has easy access.
There are several ways to achieve this, including:
- Conducting meetings regularly with everyone within the company to table upcoming changes, plan changes, and collect feedback that does not disrupt company operations.
- Systematic emails to keep the affected team updated on upcoming and programmed changes.
- The creation and dissemination of verified change schedule so that every stakeholder can access information about future changes.
The Main Stages of Change Management
There is so much to discover about change management: both from the individual and organizational level. This is because so many researchers, especially those in the social psychology field, have been studying it for years.
In the next segment, we will take a look at two well-known models that propose their systematic approach to change management principles. Note that they can be executed in part, full, or as a source of motivation – in the case of procedures related to humans – since there is no universal strategy that everyone can apply.
Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change Management
Kurt Lewin created a change model that includes three key steps: unfree, change, and refreeze. According to Lewin, the process of change involves triggering the perception that a change is necessary, the shift to the new, the needed level of behavior, and lastly, ensure the new behavior becomes a norm:
Human behavior can be identified in regards to change as a quasi-stationary state, which is a mindset, a physical and mental capacity that can be achieved. However, it is situated so that the brain can evolve without necessarily reaching this state.
For instance, a contagious virus can spread quickly in an area, and counterattack measures to prevent escalation. However, with medical research and studies, the virus can be contained and disappear from the population.
As soon as you “unfreeze” the status quo, you may start to execute your change. However, an organizational change is particularly very complex. Therefore, implementing a well-designed change process may not yield the expected results. So, it is best to create multiple change options. Then, at each stage of change, figure out what worked and what did not.
The aim of refreezing is to maintain the change that has been executed. The mission is to ensure every stakeholder regards the new changes as the status quo, not to resist those who are executing the change – activities, processes, norms, and strategies are adjusted according to the new state.
John Kutter’s Model
John Kutter is a professor at Harvard Business School. His model of change management comprises of eight practical stages, which include:
More detailed, the model of John Kutter, professor at the Harvard Business School, is based on 8 practical steps to follow to manage the desired change:
The belief that a change being instrumental for the success of a company can be powerful. If an organization can create an environment where everyone knows of a prevailing issue can see a potent solution, then the support for the change will increase.
Initiating a conversation on current issues and showing the direction the company could pursue can help accomplish this. One great way to initiate this is to create a platform where people can raise issues and offer potential solutions.
The goal of this phase is to prepare. The goal of this phase is to prepare. According to Kotter, approximately 75% of the management in a company should be behind the change for it to be fruitful. This confirms Kotter’s notion that crucial to prepare before embarking on the change process.
At this phase, the “need” for change is created instead of a mere “want” for change. There is a big difference between these two ideologies regarding the likelihood of getting support and the success of the change.
Create a Strong Collaboration
The change management tools cannot be handled single-handed, so it is essential to build partnerships to help direct others. The collaboration you make must comprise various skills, different experience levels, and partnerships of various company departments to maximize its effectiveness.
Such collaborative intelligence allows you to share messages throughout the company, allocate responsibilities, and ensure comprehensive support throughout the organization. Those who work together can complement each other and encourage each other to work harder, making everyone’s work accessible and increasing the chances of successful change management.
Develop a Vision for Change
Initiating change is not easy as it can be challenging to understand the initiative itself, especially for company subordinates. As such, creating an easy-to-understand vision is a good way of encouraging support from the entire company. And while it is good to make the vision stable and simple, it also should inspire every stakeholder to ensure the best impact.
Communicate the Vision
Once you create the vision, you must communicate it throughout the company to generate support. This is the perfect opportunity to leverage the partnerships you have built because they may have more connections in various departments. To emphasize, you should ensure constant communication because competing messages are also being shared.
Get Rid of Obstacles
The first initial steps are key to developing the strength of the change initiative. However, it is also wise to determine what is likely to lower the chances of success. Expect a few barriers against change’s path: it could be physical, legislation, or traditional obstacles. It is important to identify these barriers early and use the available tools to break them down without affecting other company operations.
Develop Short-term Wins
It takes a while before change processes start to yield positive results, and this may cause support to reduce if other stakeholders see this as a wasted effort. So, it is crucial to show the benefits of the new process by generating a few short-term wins.
Additionally, short-term goals come in handy as motivation and direction tools. These wins can help validate efforts and investment and can re-motivate employees to continue to support the change.
Capitalize on The Change
Complacency is often the reason the change process fails, especially towards the end of the process. So, Kotter emphasizes the importance of sustaining and cementing change for as long as possible after it has been achieved. Then, continue to set targets and determine things that could be handled better for continued improvement.
Secure the Changes in The Corporate Culture
Adjusting the organizational process and the habits of an individual is not sufficient to ensure a culture change across the spectrum. What you need is for change to become inherent to your company and have an eternal impact.
Keeping the management on board, encouraging new joiners to embrace the changes, and rewarding employees who anchor the change will promote the change to the company’s core.
Regardless of whether one follows these models or not, they stipulate three key principles that are the secret ingredients to the success of change management, they include:
- A vivid and shared communication on the targeted goals.
- The dedication and support of employees.
- The incorporation of change into the organization’s culture to ensure its sustainability.
- Soft skills – an important tool of change management.
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The Importance of Soft Skills
These behavioral competencies can help a great deal in the period of change. This is because they play on stress management, creativity, resilience, and adaptation skills of individuals. In addition, soft skills give employees the needed strength to conquer the hesitation caused by change and adopt it more quickly.
Soft skills are “state of mind” applied to change management skills, and it’s also referred to as “change management.” The transformational leadership plays a crucial role as “manager coaches” to employees and their staff.
They must believe in the benefits of the change and its relevance to their individual development and then adopt and then improve on the soft skills to initiate and execute this transformation.
What About Corporate Coaching?
Many companies now view corporate professional coaching as part and parcel of the organizational transformation process.
Based on the company culture and objectives, transformation business coaching plays a pivotal role in the evolution of the company and its employees, frees up blockages, sets action plans, and speeds up the transformation process by appraising human capital and individual alike.
Voiced between stakeholders and group coaching based on the needs, according to the human factor and precise strategic objectives and proven facilitation methods, professional coaching therefore logically escalates the success rate of change management processes.