Change management refers to how organizations implement new programs, processes and initiatives. Although change is necessary for companies, it can create resistance in employees, especially in the absence of proper communication. Successful change management is, therefore, of the utmost importance to organizations, and the key elements are planning and people-level management.
Too many organizations fail to manage change because they do not engage in planning, notes Kevin Dwyer, founder of Change Factory, in an article for ProjectSmart.co.uk. Managing change requires understanding the risks, estimating the resources necessary and planning contingencies and what must happen before the change can be implemented. The skills and processes of project management, including risk and resource management, contingency planning, prioritization and review, are essential to planning and communicating change, Dwyer says.
The other key element in implementing change is managing change at the people level. The people in the organization undergoing change must have a reason to believe the change is necessary, explains Dwyer. Paint the big picture for those affected to show them the benefit to the organization from the change. If the benefits of the change are made explicit, there is a better chance that people in the organization will embrace even difficult change.
Motivate individuals to embrace change by answering the question “What's in it for me?” Fred Nichols of Distance Consulting refers to such appeals to self-interest as the empirical-rational change management strategy. The empirical-rational strategy assumes that people are rational beings who will follow their self-interest. Motivational opportunities for most employees include achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, personal growth and the work itself, so address these areas when formulating your change message.
A time of change is emotional for most people, so employees need to be told the message early and often. Tell them about the compelling reason, the plan for change and how the plan is progressing as the project continues. Make sure to address their role in the change, and inform them of early changes to increase motivation.
Organizational change will not be successful without honest communication. Tell employees about the challenges involved in the change as well as the opportunities and successes, and do not exaggerate the advantages to individuals. Honesty about the change process will increase support by making employees believe what you are telling them, notes Dwyer.