It may be a new safety program. It may be a new software roll-out. Or it may be a major overhaul to your policies and procedures… Whatever the change might be, it’s easy to say “change is never easy.” And that may just be true—that change can be difficult—but there are proven steps you can take during a change management initiative to make it more successful, says Craig Todd, CEO at AMEND Consulting. We sat down with Todd for a two-part series on how to successfully navigate change. Todd has helped hundreds of clients through change management initiatives at AMEND Consulting, an award-winning mid-market management consulting firm. AMEND’s approach includes empowering clients, helping them to drive positive and lasting change. No matter how much resistance you may be facing, here are 3 change-management tips from Todd that can help you drive positive and sustainable change at your company:
1. Break down the behaviors that need to change
A bit of a misconception is the idea that people simply don’t like change. “That’s not necessarily the situation,” explains Todd. “It’s usually that most people don’t enjoy the transition of the change. In other words, it’s not the change itself, in all cases. “Sometimes it’s the steps to get to an end point, or the nervousness, discomfort, or fear of what the change really means,” adds Todd. The best way to work against any kind of fear or concern is to set clear expectations, and even a roadmap when possible. As a leader, show what the change is going to look like. Remember that people are self-focused, says Todd, and they naturally want to know what the change means for them, as individuals. What that might look like: it may mean getting clear on the actual behaviors that are going to shift. If a person needs to adopt several new behaviors when they come into work each day, what does that look like? How will they learn those new routines, procedures or skills? What are the behaviors they are no longer going to do? What are the consequences if they don’t stop those behaviors in the future? Those expectations should also be clarified.
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2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
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In over three decades of helping companies move forward, Todd’s never seen a company where communication is perfect or where there are no issues related to communication. “Communication can almost always be worked on or improved in a culture,” he says. During change, it’s important to use proactive communication to share your vision, set guidelines, and to hold people accountable. Todd share’s these tips for communicating during change:
- Realize you probably aren’t communicating enough. Management can think something has been communicated, but not everyone has understood, received, or absorbed the information. Recognize you may need to share things at least four times for all parties to really start to absorb it, says Todd.“It’s all about repetitions until it starts sinking in for people,” says Todd, who emphasizes how difficult it is to over-communicate. Aim to use multiple ways (or channels) to share information with your people, too.For example, as President/CEO, you may verbally share your vision for a new project in your regular, company-wide Town Hall meeting. That message around vision could be reinforced the following week through an internal email, featuring a quick video or article from you.Certain messages may even be appropriate to share in social media. For example, if you were recognizing an employee for behaviors that aligned with your company values, that might be a message that is first shared internally via your company intranet. After that, a version of that content could also be shared externally via social media.
- Allow for two-way conversation. Part of effective communication is listening. Listening to how your people are feeling or allowing them to give you feedback on the process is critical during times of change.They will notice if you are open to discussions with them, and they will be more bought-in if you listen to their needs and challenges, explains Todd.
- Be as transparent as possible. Most of your people will value when you share the rationale behind decisions. Not all of them will necessarily understand it at first, but for those that can see the vision, it can be effective to open up and be candid. Sharing as much information as you are able will go a long way in getting your people to embrace the change.
3. Support progress through meaningful metrics
At the beginning of your initiative, roll-out, or project, you set expectations. Those expectations should also be used to help you identify measures of success and progress, says Todd. Measures of success could be project-specific, but they can also be related to your employee engagement, your process quality, or even your customers. Along the journey, do your best to examine and evaluate those measures of success. You may find that the metrics help you to ask and consider key questions. Examples of questions you could be asking include:
- Do we have the resources at this point to meet our strategy and to meet our objectives?
- Are we proficient in the skills needed to…(execute the strategy)?
- Does everyone have clear accountability when it comes to…(their role)?
- Have all workers gone through the training per our requirements?
- Do we have evidence that the new behaviors are being adopted?
The kind of questions you may be asking can vary, but the answers to questions can help you assess and break down the change effort. This can also be one way to deal with people who are putting up barriers to the change. If there are metrics they aren’t hitting, it can be clear they are probably not going to be a fit in the company anymore. Come back next week for part two in our series on change management with Todd.
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