Change Management – How to Involve Your Team in Process Improvement

I’m no expert in the psychology of change. Having managed teams through change and watched clients have to do the same, I appreciate that it can be difficult for some.

I’ve turned to Leadership expert Lisa Woods to help explain why change can be challenging and how we, as business leaders, can help ease that transition.

Over to Lisa…

Don’t Be ‘Insane’ and Pretend That Change Will Just Happen

It was Albert Einstein who famously said that ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ implying that you’ve got to do things differently and change to secure a different, and one assumes, a better result.

That could be said of the Eastman Kodak Company who went from being the most famous brand in the world of photography and videography to filing for bankruptcy in 2012 despite dominating the industry for the entire 20th century.

What went wrong?

Although Kodak were the inventors of the digital camera they chose to ignore this new technology, and subsequently all the media and market feedback – who were interested in digital because of its lower costs, better quality image, and ease of use – and stuck to a strategy which effectively deprived it of success. They were reluctant to change what they had always done which was to produce photographic film because their belief was that this was of superior quality and individuals liked the physicality of an image. This was coupled by depleting possible investment for this new technology by purchasing smaller companies – another poor decision.

By the time Kodak realised their mistake and begun the production of digital cameras it was too late – they just couldn’t keep up with the big companies who had already established themselves in the digital photography market.

What does success look like?

One of the key traits of the most successful companies in the world are those who embrace and advocate change and deliver it effectively. Look at Apple if you’re not yet convinced.

A key feature of an effective company that delivers change successfully is that it keeps its people informed, engaged, and involved throughout the change process. In summary, they have considered their people and realised the important role they play in delivering change and so created a plan to support this being realised.

How does change affect people?

None of us are the same and unsurprisingly, we don’t all react and process change the same way either. There are those of us who are excited and energised by change and the opportunities to do something new and different. But the opposite is those who find change draining, unsettling, and anxiety-inducing, and as a result, may oppose and obstruct wherever possible to protect themselves.

The Coaching Academy in London offers a helpful consideration; ‘…the change process is simply about moving people from the present state to the desired through a period of transition’ with employees being characterised by low stability, high emotional stress, high energy, feelings of being out of control – the most common that I have experienced during my time managing teams through periods of change – and increased conflict.

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational; the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.” William Bridges, Managing Transitions.

There is also the potential for employees to be resistant to change, which is a common reaction. This resistance can present itself in several ways – behaviour, knowledge, beliefs, values, assumptions, identity, emotions.

Let’s also not forget those ignoring the urgency of the challenge and reason for the change, those holding onto the past, the sceptics, those with concerns about lack of skills and ability, those with worries about their career future, and those who just don’t want to move out of their comfort zone.

Managing change effectively

Accepting and recognising all of this and putting steps in place to inform, engage, involve, and support your people will enable the effective implementation of change and the realisation of the success outcomes that you want to achieve.

Here are my recommended steps:

  • Communication – this is the foundation for all successful change. It begins with how you communicate the change you want to see with your leadership team and stakeholders, right through to how this is subsequently delivered to the operational teams. Consider the language you use and how you can verbalise your wants and expectations to achieve the reaction you want to get. Who you communicate to, what this includes, and when is also important. Not everyone will need or require the detail – nor will it be appropriate – so really think this through and plan your approach. Request the same from all individuals who you involve in rolling out the change across your organisation to align on the key messages, the wording, and achieve consistency to avoid ‘Chinese whispers’.
  • Tell a Story – stories are the oldest forms of distributing information, messages, and lessons. They help individuals to understand the change and why it is happening. Talk about the past, the current state, and the future you want to achieve and why this is better than what is happening right now.
  • Timings – To enable your organisation to prepare and be ready to implement the change you must manage all individuals’ expectations and detail when the changes will take place and give a deadline for all to be implemented to achieve your desired state.
  • Roles and Responsibilities – to prevent individuals from feeling as though the change is being ‘done to them’ and inadvertently encourage resistance because of the feeling of being out of control and unable to influence, delegate the change to your employees by assigning roles and clearly defining their responsibility. Make individuals accountable for delivering the change themselves. Recognise and celebrate individuals and their efforts throughout to maintain motivation and positive morale.
  • Feedback – Transparency and openness are the enemies of uncertainty and anxiety and therefore are your superpowers. When individuals do not have all the information and gaps are obviously left open to be filled, our human instinct is to protect ourselves from the unknown, and we imagine the worst-case scenarios to get ourselves ready to fight. When you have communicated the change to your organisation, invite individuals to respond and share their thoughts. Continue to encourage this throughout the change process and once the change has been implemented. This will also give you the benefit of being able to identify and address problems quickly when they arise.
  • Empathy – if you want individuals to comply and support and not show resistance, then you too must do the same and role-model the behaviour you want to see in others. That involves accepting that not all individuals will be supportive or accepting of the change initially and may resist and that is ok. Seek to understand what they are thinking, their concerns and worries, and be empathetic. Do not be resistant to others and their reactions because you don’t like them or they are not aligned to your own.
  • Energy – change can be motivating for some but draining for others, and therefore maintaining momentum is key to achieving the outcomes you want from any change and ensuring that deadlines are met. Seeking ways to inject energy and positivity into the process will ensure that the change process maintains pace. Keep communication regular and consistent to keep the process in everyone’s mind, and look at what initiatives you can create to inject fun into it and make it a priority for everyone.
  • Training – depending on the change you are implementing, you may require new skills and capabilities within your teams. Determine whether a training and development plan is needed to support the implementation and ongoing success of the change you are delivering. Support all your employees, as relevant, to upskill and put this in place in a timely manner to complement the deadline you have set.

I would be lying if I said that the above did not take time and effort, but it is nothing compared to the time and effort required to correct the negative, long-lasting, and costly effect of badly executed change – or worse – no change at all. For insanity can come with a high price tag…

About Lisa

Lisa Robyn Wood is the Director of GRIP Coaching Limited and is a qualified leadership and management coach and podcaster based in Oxfordshire whose career has spanned multiple industries leading teams and implementing change for brands including British Gas and Lucozade Ribena.

If you want to learn more about coaching and how coaching can support you, your team, and your employees to successfully implement change to increase the success of your company, you can contact Lisa by email lisa@gripcoaching.co.uk, via her website gripcoaching.co.uk, or find her on LinkedIn.

Listen to Lisa on The Coaching Cast podcast – available on all major platforms and by visiting thecoachingcast.co.uk

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