Did Someone Say Change?!

C.H.A.N.G.E.

6 letters that, when put together and said aloud, have the power to get fear flowing through an organisation faster than a freight train.

For those who enjoy and feel safe with the status quo, change equals uncertainty. And when that uncertainty breeds frustration or even anger, it can have devastating effects on culture and morale in the workplace.

Change is a necessary part of growth and innovation in every organisation, but preparing for and managing it may be one of the toughest challenges management face.

Having grown from a small business to a medium enterprise over the past few years, we are highly familiar with the challenges brought about by change. However, what we learned as we tackled these challenges was so valuable because it gave rise to a series of change management strategies that not only help us manage change – we thrive in it!

Here are my top 3 strategies for managing change…

1. Get your people on board early

There’s nothing worse than playing catch up when it comes to change management. Rumours spread, people get agitated, and you have to work that much harder to wind back the clock and transform people’s hearts and minds.

Don’t treat staff as an afterthought in the change journey. Instead, they can be your biggest advocates if you get them on board early and explain:

  • what change will happen
  • who it will happen to
  • why it is happening
  • how they can get involved or give feedback

With this approach, staff feel empowered and can take ownership of their part in what happens next. They become enablers of change, not barriers to it.

Buy in = Success.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When you can give advanced warning of change, and especially when you can’t, communication is vital.

There were times in the past few years when HorizonOne would grow so quickly that we had to adapt equally as fast. We always had the best intentions in communicating change, but sometimes we found the right message just didn’t cut through.

Not everyone hears your message the same way, so make a plan to triple down on communication:

  • Communicate: prepare your message and get it out early
  • Communicate: speak to team members individually
  • Communicate: keep it flowing and reiterate key messages

A solid communications plan embedded in your change management plan also helps you manage external stakeholders.

For example, if your change is positive you could prepare a media release to showcase the innovative route you’re taking. If it’s negative, you have a chance to influence public perception early by sharing your side and mitigate the potential risks that could stem from bad publicity.

3. Get feedback fast and often

Communication is a two-way street. If someone has not heard your message the way you intended, you need to know. The onus is on you to find out and fix it – which sometimes means saying it another way.

Get feedback as quickly as possible after your first communication, and know-how you will manage advice or opinions once you have them. Then, ask for feedback again a little further down the track. This allows staff to communicate ideas or concerns directly to you, instead of letting them build up or overflow into the team which can have systemic negative consequences.

Not every change is positive or popular. But if your team feel that they are part of the journey, rather than the change has been thrust upon them, it will make the process easier and infinitely more positive.

The next time your organisation faces change, challenge the usual. Get staff involved early, triple down on communication, and get feedback fast and often. Your culture will thank you if you do.