Change Management is a Contact Sport

Change Management is a Contact Sport
Brian Clark

I use the term ‘contact sport’ part in jest but also to illustrate that change management requires deep engagement in interpersonal and group communications. Change management is not something a firm can impose as a detached ‘implementation’ without seriously jeopardising the culture and ongoing viability of the organisation depending on the scope of the change.

There are four big benefits that illustrate the importance of change management. There are more, but these four are the ones I find most impactful and easy to observe in an organisation.

  1. Change is inevitable and occurs in every organisation whether it is managed or not. Navigating change with a well-designed change management plan and methodology ensures a smoother, less impactful transition, whether it is a reorganisation, introducing new technology or adapting to changes in market conditions.
  2. Resistance is a fact of life – and this is often driven by fear of the unknown, perceived loss of control or threats to job security. Resistance can be an insidious killer of culture if it is not effectively addressed with meaningful, consistent communication and engagement.
  3. When people are communicated with and engaged, the outcome can be improved employee morale. I recommend getting people involved in the process to foster some ownership for the process and the result of the change process.
  4. Productivity can take a big hit during a change initiative. Change can impact people’s motivation, focus and cause confusion about what work to focus on. You want to avoid this confusion by ensuring you focus on engagement in your change management plan and by doing so, enable people to adapt faster and improve productivity.

“>Use this mind map to develop a change plan. Change management plan in a mind map.

Now the Contact Part – how do you engage people effectively?

  1. Clarity of communication is paramount. Clarity of message and the use of multiple channels of communication to ensure the message is getting across and understood my most people in the organisation. Transparently communicate about the reasons for change, outcomes and its impacts on the organisation and individuals. Communication must be two-way so feedback tools and active interpersonal listening needs to be included in your change management plan.
  2. Participation goes a long way to preserving and building your culture during a change management project. As much as possible, involve your people in planning and decision making. You will benefit from their insights as well as ensuring their ongoing support. You can also identify people who are ‘change champions’ who can help influence and motivate others. These champions may be people who initiated or requested the change or are positively impacted by the outcomes of the change project.
  3. Training is one area often overlooked or discounted during a change project. I recommend you assess training needs very early in the planning process so that skills can be developed prior to and during the change project and not addressed retroactively. When developing your training needs analysis and training plans, consider ongoing support as well post change project. Support can be in the form of ongoing training, coaching as well as documentation and tools that people can use to adapt to the change.
  4. A big contributor to engagement in a change program is celebration. Do not leave the celebration until the end, instead build celebration into achieving milestones in your plan. Celebration at milestones positively reinforces and recognises people’s efforts. Positive reinforcement also helps build shared behaviours that may assist people in adapting to the change.

Change management is not just a well-crafted plan or expertly designed processes. Change management is all about people. Effective change management is people working together with shared understanding of the reason for the change, vision for the outcomes and willingness to engage and contribute.

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