Telling the story of change

Change is a terrifying thing for most people

Telling the story of change

by Ben Baker, principle of Your Brand Marketing 

Change is a terrifying thing for most people. The anxiety caused by the unknown can lead to paralysis and the inability to function to one’s full potential.

The problem is, change is inevitable. It is the norm, but in most cases, change happens so slowly that most people are oblivious to the changes around them until the cumulative effect causes major unrealized shifts that affect them personally.

So, the question is, how do you manage change and the effects that it has on people in the workplace?  How do you make the necessary shifts in people, culture, process, location or sphere of work needed to ensure a businesses survival without creating havoc in the workplace? 

Effective communication is the key to managing change and is something many companies do ineffectively.  Many companies do not take the time to realize how change will affect process and people and put the correct strategies in place to mitigate issues before they become overblown and dire.

With that in mind, one might ask, how can this be overcome?

It can be overcome by first realizing that people are human, and humans have a need to understand what is happening around them, have control over their destiny and be able to contribute towards successful outcomes.

Change requires planning and open dialogue to be successful.  The larger the change and the more far-reaching it is within the organization, the more planning, and accurate and on-going dialogue is required.

If major changes within an organization are to occur, the first thing that needs to be determined is who is going to be affected and how?

  • Are there going to be layoffs?
  • Does there need to be retraining?
  • Is there going to be relocation?
  • Are teams being re-organized introducing new dynamics?
  • Is there going to be an influx in new staff and what does that mean in terms of management re-organization?
  • And the list does go on. . .

The next process is to make sure that everyone within the organization understands the plan and overall objectives before implementing changes. This should be done company-wide, in one location, optimally, at one time.  The reason for that is it lets everyone believe that they heard the information first hand and had the same opportunities to ask questions and receive information. By doing so, this vastly reduces the rumour mill starting up, people working with misinformation, it relieves anxiety and creates greater opportunity for success.

From that point on, it is on-going communication about what has happened, what is being done, by whom, what the ramifications of those actions are to date and what the long-term goals and outcomes will be, that will lead to successful change. Organizational groups should have on-going meetings, with clear agendas and purpose, throughout the change process to allow input as to how changes are affecting them and how things can be modified to ensure greater overall success. 

This information needs to be immediately summarized, not whitewashed, and forwarded to senior management.  Senior management must look at these concerns critically, adjust plans as needed and communicate what changes are being made and why to the entire organization.  The longer the period is between concerns and suggestions being forwarded and them being dealt with, the larger the strains on the organization will be as a whole.  Timely communication and action through a period of change are critical to achieving goals and making sure that long-term success happens.

One suggestion is to have a team member from each department as part of a team committed to advocate for their department needs and to make sure that overall changes consider how those changes affect the various working units. That team should have on-going meetings with senior leadership to make sure that everyone understands goals and directions and that objectives are being met.

That team becomes a conduit back to the department to allow for on-going, timely communication and enables front line workers both to understand what progress is being made and that their concerns are being voiced at a higher level.

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, change is inevitable and necessary. If done correctly and if everyone within the organization understands why changes are necessary, what will be achieved through making the changes and how it affects them personally, most major change projects can go smoothly.

However, if change is dictated from above without justification or effective communication of a plan, employees will become anxious, fearful for their jobs, and will look for opportunities that are more stable and beneficial for them elsewhere.


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