Implementing change can be one of the biggest challenges to a manager. Managing the change process and leading people through it are the keys to success. If people are included in the decision making process they will buy into the change and support it much more readily. However, this is not always possible as sometimes the need for change is brought about by factors that don’t allow the inclusion of everyone involved. Either way, managing and leading are critical components in implementing change successfully. A written plan should be formulated, the impact of the change on each person or area of the business should be evaluated, lines of communication should be opened, and people should have as much input into the change process as possible.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand … Sun Tzu
Planning the Change
Developing a plan for change is strategic in nature. Anticipating the reaction to change is the most important part of this process. Most people naturally resist change – some more than others. People who have experienced the difficulties brought about by poorly managed change in the past are likely to be very resistant. So anticipating sources of resistance and addressing them at the outset will nullify a good deal of the opposition. When people have accepted change at an intellectual and emotional level prior to its actual occurrence adaptation will occur much more readily. Including people in the planning process at the outset of change while previously having identified areas of resistance and preparing positive alternatives to overcome objections will result in a greater acceptance of pending change.
Leading by Example
A powerful asset that is completely within the control of the manager is the ability to set an example regarding the acceptance and management of change. Most business owners and managers grasp the concept that a customer’s perspective is their own reality. The same applies to employees. A manager that recognizes the differences in employee’s point of view can provide positive messages and demonstrate effective methods for dealing with change. Telling an employee that their concerns regarding pending change are unwarranted is akin to telling them that their perception of reality is flawed. This would never be done to a customer. Understanding a person’s perception and offering positive ways to deal with issues will bring about positive results. Demonstrating that there are similar challenges that impact the manager and offering insights into how they’re dealt with will give people an example to follow.
The Written Plan
Creating a written plan for the implementation of change is a critical component of the process. This creates a visible definition of the methods by which the changes will be absorbed into the business. The importance of this cannot be overstated. The written plan is the central piece that holds the whole change process together. It provides a focal point that people can always look to for guidance during adaptation.
Managing change requires planning and leadership. Anticipation and strategy formulation are the starting point. Working with people on change acceptance establishes the path to the desired goal. And publishing and communicating the plan by which change will be achieved is the key that holds everything together.