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Leading effective and human-centred change management

Business Processes 11 Feb . min read

2020 showed us that business is everything but predictable. The social and economic disruption of the past year is reflected in the new vocabulary we use. Speaking about a business planning a ‘pivot’ is as common as the concept of who is in your household ‘bubble’.

Thinking about how their teams will cope through periods of transformation can keep chief executives awake at night. So how can people in positions of leadership bring about needed change in a way that earns the support of those who are affected?

The building blocks of successful change management

Well before kicking off any changes in your organisation, it is critical that everyone in an organisation understands why changes need to be made. They also need to be given the knowledge, tools and the ability to implement and sustain the required changes. AskYourTeam draws on ADKAR model’s five building blocks to keep in mind that help to bring about successful organisational change:

Awareness

The need for change may be obvious to people in leadership roles, but it’s important to spend time clearly and carefully articulating the reasons for changes across the organisation and how these will benefit the organisation. People need to understand the expected benefits as well as the risks, and the implications for the business and customers. One of the first reactions many people have to proposed changes is ‘what does this mean for me?’ Good awareness of why, how, and how long changes need to happen are a fundamental step in the process.

Desire

Even though resistance to change is part of normal human behaviour, organisations can take steps to actively engage people in the change process. This includes encouraging a culture of involvement, honesty and openness, as well as embracing new ways of working, rather than prescribing fixed ways about how things ‘should’ be done. When change is proposed, people should feel as though they have a stake in driving it, rather than having it imposed on them from above.

Knowledge

Even if people are supportive of proposed changes, this can shift as plans evolve, deadlines are brought forward, or the impact on teams, individuals or the business as a whole changes. The key is to be committed to communicating regularly throughout the process, not simply when announcing the plans. No one should be left wondering how they will be impacted, or what is required of them as the process is underway.

Ability

Once changes are being implemented, everyone involved needs to understand what their role is in the process. The key here is giving everyone ample opportunity to give open and honest input and feedback about the changes and to ensure they are supported during the period of change. The more people have been consulted and given ownership of the process, the less likely they will resist the changes which need to be made.

Reinforcement

Was it all worth it? Successful change management doesn’t have a specific end-point - rather, ongoing reinforcement can help people understand how changes have made improvements to the organisation. It can help them appreciate that the changes have set the organisation up to be more successful and resilient in the future, or to better meet the needs of customers. Reinforcement doesn’t simply mean telling people the changes were necessary, it means asking them whether they feel the changes have made a positive difference.

Why putting people at the heart of change management matters

At the heart of successful change management is understanding how your employees experience change, and providing the vision, tools, frameworks, resources and ideas they need to transition. Ineffective change management can happen when people feel left in the dark. If employees perceive a lack of clarity about where the business is headed, and why, they are likely to feel unmotivated. This can lead to poor performance outcomes.

Human-centred change management puts people at the core of the process. If we are aware of the need for changes and exactly what is going to happen, we’re far more likely to support them. We also need a meaningful and active stake in the implementation - we need to be listened to and know that our voices are heard. Finally, we need to be comfortable that changes were necessary, both for the organisation and the customers that it serves.

 

Understand how your employees experience change and how you can provide the vision, tools, frameworks, resources and ideas they need to successfully transition.

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Jane Croker-Mackay

Consultant