The companies of today exist in a dynamic and turbulent society in which the question of whether change will occur is no longer relevant. Change is a given. Societal factors have caused significant change in the work environment, thereby affecting the people, methods and goals of organizations. These modifications occur so quickly that the work force has difficulty maintaining a high level of effectiveness.
The factors of continuity and momentum are disrupted, and workers are forced to continue on in a game of “catch up.” The frequency and complexity of such elements as advancing technology, government regulations, economic instability, the energy crisis, foreign competition and the changing character of the work force presents enormous pressure for managers in their attempts to keep their organizations current and viable.
What can you do? First off, accept the obvious: Change is a fact of life. Any effective manager must come to terms with this. However, you shouldn't allow change to occur at will. You must establish change strategies that will help you plan, direct and control. Acquire the necessary skills to respond effectively to change, and maintain a means of survival for your organization.
Plan for Change
It has been said you must manage change or change will manage you. Change differs in frequency and magnitude from situation to situation. Those responsible for affecting meaningful change may feel overwhelmed without the necessary skills and knowledge to cope with it. Becoming aware and learning to use these strategies can increase competence for dealing with change.
Organizational change requires that people change habits, expectations, goals and work activities. People must be managed in new and more responsive ways as time goes on. This is an innovative idea that forces us to conceive, construct and convert our behavior to a new view of organizational reality.
The main role of the change agent is to figure out what should happen and then make it happen. The latter part of this mission is the most difficult part. To develop and launch plans for change on a meaningful scale, the manager must contribute fundamental qualities of initiative, ingenuity and commitment to the effort.
In the change process, managers will find that people resist change. This resistance is a state of mind that can come in the form of active opposition and/or avoidance.
12 Reasons People Resist Change
- Don’t understand the purpose for the change
- Are not involved in planning for the change
- Feel anxiety about job security
- Are not communicated with clearly
- See existing work group relationships changed
- See change for loyalty-sake, not goal achievement
- Fear failure
- Anticipate increased work load
- Worry about too much personal sacrifice
- Maintain prior allegiance to a work group
- Lack of respect for the person making the change
- Are comfortable with the status quo
Successful Activation and Execution of Change Requirements
Be sure that you as manager…
- Identify, develop or clarify a need for change
- Explore the readiness and resources for change
- Define the potential working relationships
- Negotiate and develop commitment for change
- Project the desired outcomes of the change effort
- Plan and design for action
- Secure appropriate involvement in the change process
- Implement action and resolve resulting conflicts
- Analyze and assess the process
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate when Introducing Change
Be sure to explain…
- The reasons for change
- The benefits the change will bring
- The rough spots that will be encountered
- The need for everyone involved to implement the change
The effective manager must have an attitude that constructively questions accepted ways of doing things. They must also have the belief that they can make improvements and the capability to integrate known ideas and techniques into new combinations. Finally, they must hold expertise in transferring and applying concepts in various situations, willingness to search beyond the logical and a refusal to waiver in the face of difficulty. These are the “change criteria” that breed excellence and growth, rather than the acceptance of the status quo.
Change and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand
Perhaps the most important aspect in handling change comes down to effective leadership. A good leader must implement certain tricks of the trade in order to make transitions go as smoothly as possible.
There are five key elements of leadership that need to be emphasized if your staff and field supervisors are to be highly productive when it comes to dealing with change.
1. Let Employees Know What’s Expected
The supervisor and employee should reach mutual agreement in five basic areas:
- The work that an employee does or the major activities for which he or she is responsible
- Where the job fits into the total picture and why it is important.
- The factors upon which the performance will be evaluated including quality, quantity, job budgets, safety and material and equipment control
- How and when performance will be measured—it may be through quantitative measures or a series of statements describing the conditions which will exist when that area of the job has been adequately performed
- How performance will be rewarded, e.g., a pay for performance system
2. Let Employees Know Where They Stand
This means to accentuate the positive. Give your employees positive reinforcement when they do something well. Recognition cannot amount to a superficial pat on the back. The results accomplished should receive the emphasis. This correct type of recognition, like other leadership techniques, is another way of fostering mental and emotional involvement in a job. A strong sense of personal identification with organizational goals takes place because it is directly related to benefits for the individual. In this case, psychological reward is the form of recognition.
3. Establish a Sound Communications Network
Effective leadership requires a network of communication that is both company- and employee-centered. An approach to communication which goes beyond basic job information can accomplish several things. It promotes a sense of identification and a feeling of being a key member of the team. This in turn fosters the interest, commitment and closeness which are so important to harmony and cooperation. A sound communication system breeds involvement and decreases the likelihood of an employee stating, “I just do my job. That’s what I’m paid for.” When people feel like they’re in on important matters, they’re much more likely to work more effectively for the company.
4. Establish a Positive Work Climate
- Give people the freedom to do their work without constant interference.
- Take positive action to contribute to employee growth and development.
- Discuss possible causes of and solutions to specific problems which are making an employee’s job difficult
- Train and coach the employee to find better ways of doing the work.
- Provide help and assistance in problem-solving as opposed to always giving the answer.
- Seek out and use employee ideas on how to do the job rather than always projecting the classic “my way or the highway” image.
- Be approachable so as to build something beyond a formal boss/employee relationship.
5. Be an Effective Delegator
Every time a supervisor delegates work to an employee, three actions are either expressed or implied:
- He/she assigns duties, indicating what work the employee must do.
- He/she grants authority. Along with permission to proceed with the assigned work, he/she will probably transfer to the employee certain rights, e.g., the right to spend money, to direct the work of other people, to purchase materials, to represent the company to customers or to take other steps necessary to fulfill the new duties.
- He/she creates an obligation. In accepting an assignment, a subordinate takes on an obligation to his boss to complete the job.
By recognizing that no delegation is complete without a clear understanding of duties, authority and obligation, a supervisor can often overcome a good deal of misunderstanding.
These attributes of delegation are like a three-legged stool. Each depends on the others to help support the whole, and no two can stand alone.
By following these important leadership steps, we create an environment that is much more conducive to change. Effective leadership begets effective change; the two absolutely go hand-in-hand.
By dealing with change with an efficient leadership style, we are at least trying to make things better, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen. In the end, managing change is about being proactive, and this strategy will continue to breathe life into the organization and perpetuate success.
Construction Business Owner, May 2007