As humans, we love to develop a routine and stick with it. Knowing what to expect each day feels comfortable. But as stressful as it may be to shake up our routine and learn a new way of doing things, change is inevitable and often necessary for growth, especially in terms of business.
Businesses may need to change tactics due to any number of reasons, such as new technological developments, new laws and federal policies or waning market interest. We never know what's coming down the pike, so it seems like reacting to change is the only way to handle it.
But change management models say otherwise: Instead of being totally reactionary, businesses can plan for change and therefore position themselves ahead of the competition. Still, change management isn't without its flaws.
And that's not to say that all change involves a crisis of some kind. Change management is also helpful for relatively simple things like moving over to a new productivity, communication or documentation tool. Even transitioning to a paperless office requires change management for a smooth experience.
Strengths of Change Management
The main advantage of change management involves remaining competitive. If your company can gracefully adapt to change, you won't experience much, if any, downtime. Competitors affected by the same situation (for example, an economic situation or a new technological development) who don't already have a change management method to fall back on will be left scrambling.
You, on the other hand, will already have gone through extensive planning. When needed, you just reach for that plan and get to work. You'll already know what kind of support your employees need so they can remain motivated throughout the process. Even for "simple" changes, it helps to have a support plan in place before announcing and implementing the change.
Evaluating Resources and Reducing Stress
Planning for change also gives you time to evaluate your resources. Can your budget handle the change if it has to start tomorrow? Do you need more people to get the job done? For example, you might need to contract with an IT company to help you understand and utilize brand-new technology. Picking out a company ahead of time helps you make change efficiently.
Finally, your employees will appreciate that you've taken the time to plan out a change management method in order to reduce their stress and workload during the process. The changes themselves can also be intended to improve productivity and make the employees' jobs easier. Either way, it improves morale.
Limitations of Change Management
One of the biggest disadvantages of change management goes back to the basic premise that you can't predict the future. It's smart to have change management protocols ready to go for likely possibilities. But sometimes life takes strange twists and turns.
Maybe you never planned for the possibility of your office being hit by a tornado because you live in an area where tornadoes are extremely rare. Or maybe you never predicted that civil unrest and violence would break out in your city because it has always been a peaceful place. And yet, these things can happen.
In short, the limitations of change management are directly related to the limitations of our imagination. And we also don't have the time or budget to create change management models for the most obscure events. Instead, we can plan for what's likely to happen based on current trends with the economy, politics, environment and changing technology.
Addressing the Disadvantages of Change Management
One way to counteract the limitations of change management is to focus on internal assets and what would happen if they were gone. Forget "why" they might disappear because that's out of our control.
For example, what if the CEO was no longer able to come to work? Don't worry about why. Just focus on how the organization would continue to run without him or her. Create a plan for someone to step into that role.
Resource Planning in Case of Employee Turnover
Make sure all the necessary documents, passwords, etc. can be accessed by that person to continue smooth operation. Decide if this is a permanent or temporary change. Determine who'll fill the role vacated by the person stepping in for the CEO, and so on.
What if the majority of a certain department couldn't come into work? Again, the reason is arbitrary. How will the company continue to function without that department temporarily? What's the plan? That's completely up to you and your team.
Focus on the essential components of running your organization and then create scenarios for if they were taken away.
Employees' Reactions to Change Management
Finally, when considering the advantages and disadvantages of change management, the attitude of employees can go either way. A reticent attitude can be a limitation of change management, but a can-do attitude makes the entire transition much easier. You can try to influence your employees' reactions to change by remaining positive yourself. Emphasize why the change is important and be extra supportive during the transition with any questions or hiccups.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.