What’s your take on change management? Are you an enthusiast who thinks it’s the best way to handle potentially transformative organizational change? Or do you see it as a smoothly orchestrated attempt to convince employees that they need to work harder with no increase in compensation?
I confess that I have often been in the latter category. During a conversation years ago, I remember bursting out that change management was a disingenuous PR ploy. Far from being offended, the person with whom I was speaking responded, “Well, if employees aren’t willing to get with the program, they can always find another place to work.”
Organizational change is inevitable, and it’s clear that it can be handled well, poorly, or somewhere in between. If you want to feel better about change management, you should read an article by Patti Sanchez (@pattisan), chief strategy officer of the well-respected Duarte, Inc. and coauthor, with Nancy Duarte, of Illuminate.
If you’re the CEO of a large company or the owner of a small business contemplating the need for major changes, read on. If you’re the employee of a company on the verge of change, read on to get a sense for how well your management is preparing you for what may be major changes in your work life.
According to Ms. Sanchez, successful organizational change has its foundation in empathy. She also makes an important point: it’s not so much what the change encompasses, it’s how people feel about it. Further, she observes it’s how information about change is communicated to employees during a change that matters more than what information is communicated.
It seems, then, that empathy is important, but technique (my term) is also critical. Ms. Sanchez makes these recommendations:
First, profile your audience. Create personas for key employee segments and interview individuals in each one. Probe for their feelings, beliefs, and concerns. Ask them what they hope the company will or won’t do and listen to what they say empathically. And re-interview them. Ms. Sanchez says, “But, considering that people’s wants and needs will evolve throughout the process, you should reevaluate these personas during every phase of the journey.”
Tell those facing change what to expect. Ms. Sanchez says “. . . The more informed your people are, the more they’ll be able to deal with discomfort.” I’m thinking that the more people know, the better you’ll be able to reduce gossip and rumor-mongering which proliferates bad morale and a generally bad attitude. That’s got to be a benefit. Ms. Sanchez notes the transparency will help management build credibility and trust.
Finally, involve people at all levels of the organization, because “transformation won’t succeed without broad involvement.” That makes sense. On the other hand, I believe that when people are solicited for their ideas, which are then ignored or brushed off, change management seems manipulative.
Yes, organizational change is inevitable. It can bring good news or bad news, but the way it’s communicated is critical. I’ve spoken to people who believe that change management reduces organizational trauma and ultimately strengthens a company and a brand. I’ve also spoken to people who are more cynical.
What has your experience been?