There are two realities in life - change is inevitable, and most people hate change. The same is true of business - the economy is in a state of continual flux, customer's preferences and attitudes change constantly; technology, distribution, markets, industries are dynamic. Competition is, well, competitive - marketing that worked yesterday may not work today.
But, employees are not so keen on change. Routine is good - it makes life easier. Change means adapting and adapting is usually hard work. For the most part people like things the way they are. So, dealing with change in your business comes with many difficulties, not least dealing with all those affected by it.
Ken Blanchard, management consultant and author of the international best-seller, The One-Minute Manager, identified seven dynamics of change.
1. People will feel awkward, ill-at-ease and self-conscious
Ask yourself whether fear is holding you back from making the change. Explore those fears and recognize their capacity to hold your business back from future success. If you've got staff, acknowledge their feelings and create opportunities that make it safe for people to be successful on their own terms. Establish an environment where it's okay to make mistakes and where your team learns from each other.
2. People initially focus on what they have to give up
Be honest about what you're giving up and how you're feeling about it. Trying to ignore those feelings and pushing through them will only make you resentful and you won't be able to fully embrace the new ways and methods. If you've got staff, let them grieve for a short while about what they perceive they have lost. Then guide them towards positive acceptance of the new.
3. People often feel alone, even if everyone else is going through the same change
Be proactive about finding others who have gone through something similar. Hang out with them, learn from them, and open your eyes to what they have to offer from their experiences. If you have employees, find ways to bring them together and unite them in their experiences. If you can get people to feel empathy toward others, and recognize they are not alone, you'll be a lot further ahead in achieving team buy-in.
4. People can only handle so much change
Be honest about how much you can handle. Whenever possible, try to implement change in small steps so that you can be on top of things each step of the way. If you have staff, bring in changes one or two at a time. Giving people the opportunity to become successful at managing them will help them be more confident and open as changes continue to occur. If the amount or size of the change is beyond your control and is radical, you may find it helpful to seek the counsel of and/or hire someone who has managed organizational changes like yours to assist with implementation.
5. People are at different levels of readiness for change
Some people thrive on change and find it exciting. Others are threatened by even the smallest change. Any change will have "early adopters" (those people who buy-in right away); "opportunity groups" (those people who could be influenced), and "resisters" (those who will fight it). If you're an early adopter, you'll have no problem going for it. If you need to be convinced, gather the evidence you need to help you accept the change and move forward. If you're a natural resister, ask yourself what's at stake if you don't find a way to implement the change. If you've got staff, get your early adopters onside and use them to help you sell the change to your team. Your largest group will likely be your opportunity group, so create positive strategies that will win them over rather than push them toward the resisters. Be patient with your resisters, but let them know that their resistance will not impact the fact that the change is there to stay.
6. People will be concerned they don't have enough resources
People might fear they aren't smart enough, computer savvy enough, quick enough, or otherwise unprepared to meet the challenge successfully. What resources do you need to make the changes most effectively? What do you need to do to get those resources in place? If you've got staff, make sure you offer the necessary resources people need in terms of training, safe opportunities to practice, mentoring and ongoing support so that they can take on the new tasks with greater confidence and less fear.
7. If you take the pressure off, people will revert to their old behaviours
Find a way to keep yourself accountable. Ask a business colleague, good friend, or mentor to do this for you. It's important to have someone on board who will alert you if you're falling back into your old ways. If you've got staff, stay on top of where people are in managing the change. Deal with "backsliders" quickly and decisively, reiterating the fact that you are moving forward with this change, and give them the tools to climb back on board.
Managing change isn't easy, but it can be done effectively if you understand the natural responses to change and are proactive about strategically managing those responses. The ability to lead effectively through change is a "make or break" skill that will impact how effectively your business moves into the future.