Turn and face the strange
-- David Bowie
As the leader you probably have, or should have, high or even extremely high change agility. Do NOT, however, assume everyone else does. In fact, you should assume the opposite, that most personnel will at best struggle with change or more realistically affirmatively fight change. This must be kept front of mind for all with even the simplest changes that you wish to introduce to the organization.
The antidote to this nature of most people is change management. That concept does not mean much without specific actionable suggestions for the leader to follow. Change management and related communications must be early, often, and with feedback. When I say early, I mean very early, months or years before a change is to be fully implemented, if possible. There is at some point where the change communication can be too early and too much, but that is proportional to the magnitude of the change and the degree to which it affects people.
How do you successfully implement a change?
1. Identify the change and who it affects the most.
Any change that affects personnel interaction with their jobs must be dealt with aggressively and proactively. Once a change has been identified, you must identify all the leaders at various levels who will assist in implementing this change as well as all those touched by the change. Cast a wide net and consider not only those who will have daily duties influenced, but anyone who could be affected by the change on a weekly, monthly or annual basis as well as outside contractors or vendors. Being aware of the potential ripple effect of any change can help ensure a smooth transition and prevent the need to scramble to solve an overlooked challenge.
2. Make a timeline.
The need for necessary change can arise at any time, but many changes can be seen on the horizon long before they are to be implemented. As I said before, months or even years ahead of a change is the best time to begin the process. This allows for plenty of time to communicate the changes and why they are necessary, receive and consider feedback, and integrate that feedback into the change plan if beneficial.
3. Over Communicate.
Not everyone has the mindset of a leader who is poised to quickly adapt to necessary change. A leader’s subjective need for change communication and management should not be used as the calibration when making a communication plan. You must communicate far more frequently with greater detail to the crew, and the leader must keep this in mind every step of the way including post-change implementation.
4. Ask for and be receptive to feedback.
Change management must be individualized. Communication, management and training can be done in part to personnel classes if the class is uniform in duties, job classification and level, but still feedback and leader interaction must be to the individual. In addition to direct interaction, have others with a similar interaction confirm the responses and views in case there are issues with speaking candidly with the leader. Other tools like surveys and feedback forms with anonymity measures in place can be used to get the perception of the change as it affects the individuals. Sincerely and genuinely consider the feedback you receive from those who are having their daily duties affected by a change. The level of “buy in” from personnel can be the difference between a smooth transition or a rocky road to your end goal.
5. Respond to feedback and keep communicating.
Once you have digested and contemplated the feedback received, revisit your change plan and timeline. Look for opportunities to soothe “pain points” that have been identified, create additional solutions to previously unforeseen challenges and evaluate the overall plan with a fresh perspective. Adjustments to the change plan should reignite the cycle of over-communication and feedback. By showing your personnel you hear them and value them, and their feedback, you will create a cooperative environment that will allow changes to be more successfully implemented with less resistance and fewer unpleasant surprises.