A Few Tips on Managing Change
It’s so interesting that lately, everyone has been thrown into managing change in one way or another, either as individuals or as organisations. Incidentally, my last job was a change management project and, in this article, I’m sharing with you tips that helped me succeed and I’ll also highlight a few things to do differently.
For a start, people do not like change. We are creatures of habits acquired over a long period of time, and having a manager come in to tell us how everything we thought we were doing right suddenly needs to change, is usually not a very welcome idea; and this may be met with stiff resistance of some sort.
Come to think of it, the employees you’re about initiating change with, have been used to doing things in a certain way. And guess what, a lot of them (if not almost all), are comfortable with it.
My advice for managers and leaders, therefore, is to first create a compelling vision and then clearly explain or articulate to the employees why this change is necessary. Make every effort to let them know the benefits the changes will bring to the organisation as individuals and as an organisation. Help them to begin to visualize how this desired future from the change will be better than what they are currently experiencing.
So, one of the first things I did on my last change management project, was to meet with the heads of each section and make them buy into the vision and the direction I was leading the organisation to, and to embrace the new programmes I would be introducing. They agreed to some and subtly resisted some. The idea to use them as my change agents was to help cascade the changes in their sections.
Next, there was a need to have a strategic plan. For a school, a school improvement plan (SIP) or a school development plan (SDP). This helps you to define the expectations so that your team members know and understand what is expected to be done, what is expected from them, and while also allocating a time frame for the things that should be done. What this does is that it helps everyone to see the big picture and to begin to envision what the organisation will look like when the changes have occurred.
And then, there is a great need for communication regularly with all stakeholders involved- from the Board level, middle level managers, to the security men and cleaners. Ensure to give room to employees and subordinates to ask questions and make contributions and also clarify issues whenever necessary.
And that's not all; as a leader or manager, you’ll need to provide adequate support for the team members as you navigate the change with them. Ensure to carry out a training needs assessment, and provide adequate relevant training for getting the job done. Coach them when there is a need to do so and support them even on a one-on-one level when necessary.
Also, find amongst them individuals that you can conveniently delegate tasks to, as this will help to develop and stretch them.
As much as possible, do not leave out celebrating them and encouraging them as they make progress. Be quick to acknowledge them when they perform well, and do not be quick to judge them when they do not meet the expectations. Always remember that change is tough and takes time, and so affirming and acknowledging them will go a long way.
And lastly, review their performance regularly and provide timely feedback so that they will know they just have to deliver. This helps to put a balance to the praises they get.
You should try to avoid pushing them too hard though. I think in my eagerness to get things done with the stiff deadlines I had set, some employees probably felt they were over stretched. The fact is, change could be tough on anyone. So breathe and relax! Take it easy whenever you can and break the set goals into doable bits.
Instead of cascading through the sectional heads, find the time to reach everyone, even the remotest of the staff- because they are all important in the scheme of things. The sectional heads may not be passing on the information the way it should, and they may have their little hidden agenda (this happens a lot in organisations). A lot of times, the employers want to touch base with the executive at the top.
I hope you have picked a tip or two here. Go ahead and implement!