We all face change in the workplace. Whether it’s a major change (merger or acquisition) or a more minor change (to shift schedules, team make up, reporting lines), the impact can be the polar opposite of what was desired when the change was instituted. So what’s the best way to manage that change?
I believe it’s through your company culture. As this IndustryWeek article notes:
“Culture is all about people. Importantly, research has shown that it’s the people component that makes mergers work … or fail dismally! Make no mistake: culture counts, but not only In M&A deals, joint ventures, and outsourcing partnerships. Culture management is also critical to maximize the everyday output of work teams and to minimize productivity-killing conflict that’s so prevalent in many companies’ day-to-day operations.”
Okay, that’s pretty straightforward. I think most of us can agree on that. But what kind of culture is most supportive of change, which seems to be coming ever faster in today’s world – new competitors, new customer wants, new employee needs/demands, new economic challenges? This Strategy+Business article argues for a systems approach:
“The speed and complexity of the global business environment calls for a new appreciation of a systems-focused view of the world… The intellectual roots of systems understanding are very diverse, but they converge around three interrelated assumptions.
1) Because many of today’s organizations are complex and ever-changing, static solutions that try to lock in any ongoing management solution are likely to become new sources of destabilization themselves. …
2) Organizations must have a capacity for widespread experimentation and trial-and-error learning if they are to be self-correcting.
3) Although a systems view requires an understanding of how all the parts fit together as a whole, it also depends on an intimate understanding of the parts themselves. This is because change in any part of the system or in its outside environment — including the other systems to which it is connected — can produce profound ripple effects.”
That’s great on a theoretical level, but HOW do you do this? How do you successfully execute change with highly willful, often stubborn, and usually less informed people – the employees upon whom you rely for the change to be successful? Steve Roesler relates one successful approach:
“After calling the group of 9 people [affected by the change] together and announcing the upcoming work changes, I made this statement: ‘The changes themselves aren’t negotiable (I explained why). However, you can decide how best to organize and execute them. You are considered the experts when it comes to this function. Before we do anything, I want to have a discussion about your initial reaction. What do you see as immediately positive and why, what’s lousy and why, and how will this impact your life.’ …
“They had to be allowed to have real conversations, regardless of the feelings involved. The process isn’t linear, clean, or filled with smiley faces because it involves telling, and listening to, the truth.
“Outcome: The company saw its intent and meaning for this project realized; the team members did the same. The overall result created a new meaning in the depth of relationship between the corporate entity and the people involved.”
And that’s the rub. If you do not involve your people – not just communicate at them, but rather have an ongoing conversation with them – I can almost guarantee your change initiative will fall. Prepare for inevitable change now. Start fostering a culture centered on your people.
What’s your culture like today? Can it handle change?