Leading change is an essential skill for organisations and people. The way we work and the systems we use are continually evolving. It’s predicted that most businesses will change more in the next three years than they have in the last five. It is essential that leaders and managers know how to engage staff in implementing change.
The prospect of change can be daunting for many. Humans by nature are creatures of habit. Regardless of whether the changes are big or small, management of the change needs to be carefully planned.
The sad truth is that many businesses do not implement change well. Forty years of research by leadership and change guru Dr John Kotter has shown that more than 70% of all major transformation efforts fail.
Why? Because organisations do not take a consistent, holistic approach to changing themselves, nor do they engage their workforces effectively.
Regardless of whether you want to implement new systems, policies and brand or change reporting lines, roles and responsibilities; your approach to change should be the same.
Let’s be honest, it isn’t easy to lead or participate in change. But there are many things leaders can do to manage the impact, how change is accepted and whether it’s successful.
It’s important to cover three essential steps for leading change:
1. Create a climate for change. Increase the urgency for change, build the right team to lead the transition and get the vision right.
2. Engage the whole organisation. You need to communicate for buy-in, empower action and create short-term wins.
3. Implement and sustain change. Don’t let up, make the changes stick.
At the heart of successfully leading change is clear and consistent communication. The biggest challenge to executing change successfully is getting people to change their behaviour.
People will more likely change behaviour when given a compelling reason that influences their feelings, rather than numbers and statistics. It’s important that your leaders clearly express what the change is, why it’s being made and how it will affect each team member.
Don’t assume you know all the answers to how the change will affect your staff. Ask them and actively listen. Don’t shy away from the reasons not to change – if allowed, they may become more important than the reasons to proceed.
Identify the people who are most affected by the change as well as those individuals who can champion the change. These two groups will play a key role in helping whole organisations accept the changes.
Think about whether reward systems, such as bonuses, recognition or scorecards, would be appropriate and how they could support the acceptance of the changes.
Ultimately you need to make sure that the change is not an option. Remember people often don’t want to change, and if given a choice they often won’t.