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Effective Change Management
at the Departmental Level
Innovative Management Tools LLC
Innovative Management Tools LLC
912 Merry Lane
Milladore, WI 54454 U.S.A.
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L009-0106 V.6 Introduction “Change is opportunity. It is also constant, direct, and temporary, for once things change, you can bet they are going to change again. Learning to thrive on constant change is the next frontier.” Michael Dell, Direct from Dell1 Today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business climate has raised the stakes in the ongoing competitive battle to do more with fewer employees and with greater efficiencies. More than ever, middle managers and frontline managers are faced with creating results during what seems to be an environment of perpetual change. Bringing employees through these changes in a positive manner only further challenges the managers. Lose employees’ support, energy, or drive, and the change movement can be delayed or halted completely and the entire organization can suffer. The precarious nature of this arrangement magnifies the importance of managers having communication and change management tools to assist them during the change process to foster a positive sense of progress with the employees while also meeting the demands of senior management. When it comes to planning for change, preparing for change, defining roles and responsibilities during change, and evolving processes to support changes and directives, communicating with and involving employees on a regular basis as a group process is critical to success. Incremental change on a regular basis is received much more openly than radical efforts on rare occasions. More so, understanding how changes impact employees at the lowest levels of an organization is very powerful knowledge when working through changes.
The Current Situation “In many companies, change is not effectively planned or managed – it just happens. There is a generally accepted statistic that 75% of change projects fail to deliver against expectations. They either do not deliver the benefits promised or in some cases fail to deliver anything at all (except problems).” Excerpt from solutionsportal.com website2 Modern management principles recognize the business advantage to having empowered managers who are in communication with their employees and who, as a team, can effect change with minimal stress and confusion. Consequently, companies make efforts to regularly communicate vision and strategies to their middle manage
are designed for use across an organization, which then Diagram 1 – Options to manage change limits the department manager’s choice of tools that address the specific department needs of today and tomorrow without top-level involvement, major expense, or a substantial time commitment. Of those managing change tools that are designed for department use, radical changes to the environment and strict adherence to a prescribed methodology may be necessary in order to get the promised results. After an initial boost and commitment to these programs, the momentum is often lost and the change initiative is replaced by yet another initiative. Some programs have activities that build skills, such as teamwork, by having a group resolve issues and problems in a fictitious world (e.g. the jungle) without a direct link to the business culture and the group’s current issues and challenges. Fictional world programs do not produce widespread, sustainable change because all employees don’t participate in the initial training activity and the programs are too far from the business to produce the systematic approaches; the immediate, measurable actions; and repeatable results. All of these are needed to build successes during the change process.
Ever changing programs to manage change, commonly referred to as “flavor of the month” programs, do not produce sustainable change management programs either. Changing programs too often makes employees feel as if there is no strategic plan in place, but only a desperate attempt to react to change. Unfortunately, at this point there is no regard for the quality of the programs attempted.
In short, executives need to productively change with change, rather than react to change.
Innovative thinking must take place at every level, in the way the company operates and views its customers, its competitors, and change itself.4 The Problem Facing Many Managers Today
Once in a supervisory capacity, what supervisors or managers do to improve their Employees skills is very diverse. Some will benefit from the organization’s formal supervisory Looking training program, if one exists. Others will become self-taught through reading For Direction management books and looking for management resources. While some do very little to build their skills others work for a certain period of time then go back to the Diagram 2 – Forces university setting for an MBA or additional training – putting theory and principles on Supervisors around their experiences. and Managers Regardless of the managers’ background, one situation that every manager will face at some point in his/her career is that there are directives from senior management (with very little direction or explanation, usually because of the lack of time on senior management’s part) while employees are looking for direction and understanding on how to meet the goals, given the new directives. (Diagram 2) The manager is in between the two groups, expected to make things happen while keeping the employees happy and productive. Supervisors and managers are often faced with this situation with very few resources or tools at their disposal, without sufficient guidance or mentorship from senior management. The manager’s job is to become an effective leader who takes on the responsibility of enabling all employees to survive the change of today’s organizational life.6 A Group-Process Based Approach
With the current recognition that participative management is both desired by employees and crucial for managers to build effective teams of employees, change management initiatives need to be grounded in clear, concise, logical, layman activities or processes that engage employees at all levels, while providing the group with enough information so that decisions affecting forward progress can be made based on where people are in the change process and where the ultimate goal promises to take them.
The management tools offered by Innovative Management Tools (IMT) revolve around seven fundamental keys to change management and overall process improvement. Each of the seven keys represents an acceleration point for the organization to make responsive management decisions at all levels.
1. Using Supervisors and Managers as the Conduit to Employees
Business leaders know that the success of a company is largely dependent on its employees. The more content the employees, the more effective, productive, dedicated, and hard working they become. The link between the leaders and the employees is the layers of supervisors and managers in the organization. Communication flow, overcoming day-to-day issues, inspiring employees to be the best employee possible, and helping the company reach its growth goals are only a few ways that supervisors and managers contribute to the organization.
However, as leaders become more and more focused on the growth of the company, dedicated time spent with supervisors and managers can dwindle, leaving the supervisor alone to face the departmental challenges. Even more daunting of a task is trying to manage a department with few to no management tools at one’s disposal, yet continually trying to move the employees in ways that support the company vision.
IMT recognizes the value of having company vision and direction reinforced through the supervisors and managers. As often as possible, these visions and directions should be brought into the day-to-day lives of the employees, driving decisions and keeping employees focused on those activities that support the company goals.
All IMT activities focus on making sure that the overall goals and visions of the company are understood at the onset or considered as decisions are made.
2. Engaging and Empowering Employees in the Change Process
Too often, change processes are more directive than participative. While it is important that the vision of the change and the desired strategy be communicated from senior management, human nature prompts employees to resist the change for several reasons – mostly because of lack of involvement in the change discussions and a lack of contribution in the decision making process.
In most cases, employees are able and willing to rise to the challenge when asked to implement a change. Additionally, engaging the employees in the process and empowering them to define ways to reach the goals provides the needed buy-in for success.
Humans want to feel that they have a certain amount of control of their lives and their jobs.
Asking for their input and tapping into their experiences shows employees respect for who they are and what they can contribute.
IMT recognizes that managers cannot make good, long-term decisions during the change process without first understanding how a decision will impact the employees and the processes. The best way for a manager to learn this is by tapping into the knowledge and experiences that the employees offer prior to making the decisions. Although a decision may not be popular with the employees, the fact that the decision was made based on facts, honesty, and employee input will go well beyond the short-term unhappiness.
3. Providing Concrete, Real-World Environments and Outcomes
In the ever-changing world of the employees, the details of their day-to-day job can blur together to the point that they may begin to ask themselves what they really do during the day. When building skills or action plans on how to improve one’s environment, it is critical that real world examples stay prominent during the process. While building skills using fictitious environments (i.e., trapped on a deserted island, lost in the jungle, etc.) can be helpful, the challenge comes when making the leap from fiction to reality and applying the skills learned. What may seem very logical and successful in a simulated environment may fail in the real world. It is believed that training in a fictional setting allows participants to respond more openly and freely, away from any influences or politics that may exist in the group.
IMT tools allow the managers and employees to work in the real world, with real visions and scenarios, to create real world results that mean something to the employees at that moment and beyond. The non-threatening activities are aimed at including the employees from the beginning of the change process, before most negative feelings and influences have taken root.
4. Building Physical Communication Opportunities in a World of Electronic Communication
While e-mail, teleconferencing, and other methods of communication have dramatically changed the way we communicate in organizations today, mostly for the better, there is a growing realization that the lack of human, face-to-face communication is creating other voids and problems not encountered in the past. Many people feel that sometimes you just can’t beat a personal face-to-face conversation if you want maximum comprehension. Therefore, whenever an innovation lifts our ability to communicate, status quo is disrupted and things change.10 While the electronic communication tools of today are wonderful, there are moments during the change process where there are distinct advantages to bringing a group of people together for a specific purpose, with specific goals in mind. Humans are social beings by nature. We crave human interaction. And in our world of complicated schedules and fast-paced lifestyles, finding time to convene as a group of employees to address a specific topic or resolve an issue is rare.
Affording ourselves a few hours of pure, undisrupted, positive communication time periodically carries a host of positive payoffs.
5. Capitalizing on the Power of Small, Incremental Change at the Department Level
We have all heard, and generally accept that “people resist change.” However, exploring the topic further, it is more likely that people resist change when they don’t understand the rationale for the change, when they don’t feel the need for change, or when the change is so dramatic that it takes people out of their comfort zone. People don’t resist change as much as they fear uncertainty and the unknown. Most of us want change. We want to change from being stressed to feeling more relaxed. We want to free ourselves from limited choices and have a greater number of options.12 Employees want security in their jobs. As companies evolve, people want to know how the changes affect their department and their jobs – mostly so they can contribute to the effort and feel a sense of accomplishment. Therefore, the sooner managers can bring a sense of accomplishment and direction to the department level, the better. Managers need to break down the large change initiatives into smaller, incremental steps for two reasons. First, these steps are much easier for employees to accept, since a small step may only take them slightly out of their comfort zone. After several small steps, employees realize that they have made one large step – usually without the anxiety and resistance they would express if one large step were proposed.
Second, another positive aspect of taking smaller, incremental steps to change is that success is more likely with smaller steps, and the successes build on each other and start to fuel the change process.