(C)Stuart G. Rae Associates May 2007. E& OE  
Change: Ups and Downs

So the board has decided to completely re-engineer the whole business, the consultants have done all the planning, the projects are ready to roll, and the final step is to make the presentation to the workforce, and get everything underway. But hang on a moment, what are all those dark faces, sideways looks, mumblings and restless behaviour? A familiar story when change occurs in the workplace. What appears to be make perfect business sense, may be completely the opposite to the workforce, who may not like the fact you are upsetting the normality and routine of their daily work lives. So what should you expect and how do you plan for and mitigate the resistance to change? It is important to address both the emotional and organisational issues involved especially during the transition phase when the resitance to change can be most disastrous. Many change models use the analogy of an "unfreezing" of the exisiting mind set, followed by an interim state of confusion and defence as changes occur, followed by a "refreezing" as the new mind set is adopted and a return of comfort level is achieved.

Personal Change
Typically the personal stages undergone in this process may be defined as follows: (based on Kubler-Ross model)
  • Shock - This can't be happening. This is for real not just talk.
  • Denial - This is a waste of time. Why change what worked before?
  • Anger - How dare you do this to me. I have worked hard here for years.
  • Bargaining - What's in it for me . Cant we change this but not that?
  • Depression - I am confused. I dont want to work here anymore.
  • Transition - Trying and testing the changes.
  • Acceptance - Its not so bad - I suppose we can try it for a while.
  • Advocacy - Its making my life easier..

Organisational Change

Based on the ADKAR model (attributed to Proscii), the mitigation factors to reduce resistance to change may be considered are as follows

  • Awareness - of why the change is needed
  • Desire - to support and participate in the change
  • Knowledge - of how and what to change
  • Ability - to implement new skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement - to sustain the change

Therein lies the duty of management to provide the information and support structures to enable the change

Why are this the organisation making this change? As part of the "reason for change" there should be compelling information which can convince all change management leaders and in due course, the target population. If everyone agrees that the project is based on good, well documented and substantive objectives, they should be far more supportive of the changes.
This is independent of the project's main business benefit case which is likely to be founded on business strategy and financial results - not easily digestible for workforce individuals.
It should be clear that there are better ways of doing things - better for the organisation, better for the workforce, better for customers and/or suppliers.

Ensure that the change is well led with a clearly defined "sponsor" or "change agent" with a team behind him/her who see the need for the change and have the authority to make it happen. Long before embarking on the project understand what the desired outcome you want from each stakeholder or user group (it may not be the same for everyone), assess what their attitude to change is likely to be, and use that information to guide them in the right direction. Consider seconding detractors onto the change team at the requirements stage, to reduce islands of resistance and forestall later objections by getting their buy-in. There will be positive and negative reactions as individuals move from the "it's a waste of time" through to the "how soon will this happen" and "how will it impact me." Make sure the consequences (good and bad) of acceptance or otherwise are understood.

Ensure that the messages are delivered from the top of the orsanisation and reinforced by line management, as workforce staff are far more likely to believe in the case for change and to act in support of the changes. Enable easy access to the change information, with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Communicate the make-up of the teams involved the change process, other departments interfacing into the process (e.g. finance, IT, customer facing staff), and all feedback and reporting mechanisms. Report the management measures involved in the initiative's success. Diarise all events so there are no surprise for the people involved in the changes both team and affecte employees. Clearly communicate pre-requisite actions before, during and after change (e.g. for an employee affected - empy old folders 2 days before change, dont log-in on change day, check new folders contain all the files after we say okay to resume business).

Appropriate involvement of the target user group evaluating abilitiy to perform the change - changing VAT codes may only necessitate prior finance team involvement and small training, but changing sales processes may require full company involvement retraining and redeploying, Identify the areas where you need to gain co-operation (e.g retraining, relocation, job descriptions), and ensure there are mitigating plans and options in place ( e.g. gaining new skills/qualifications, moving expenses, salary increases). Acceptance and buy-in starts well before the project is kicked off and the various change styles that are open to the change team to be used where appropriate:

  • Consultation - User groups views sought on important changes.
  • Collaboration - Enagement of user-groups in cascading workshops or line meeting on changes. Issues logged and reported prior, during and after the change process. Re-iterate the importance of their views and feedback. Demonstration that their input has been acted upon as the changes are implemented
  • Direction - Important changes need to be made (often without consultation) e.g. new budget authorisation levels.
  • Coercion - - The workforce is told that they must obey the new instructions. (e.g. legal or financial changes that require no user input.)

In order to reinforce and monitor the change after implementation then there are various methods to ensure compliance.

  • Testing - Classroom or on-line tests relating to understanding or implementation of new functionality
  • Training - Post implementation courses offering re-validation of new procedures
  • Workshops - Wash-up workshops covering issues and concerns about implementation
  • Appraisals - Line management reviews of personal and functional issues.
  • Indicators - Performance or dashboard measures (e.g. users of system, number of calls etc)


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