How do you approach change management from a business as usual perspective?

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Leaders more often than not recognise the need for change agents to support the implementation of new initiatives:

·        When technology is upgraded or introduced

·        When organisations restructure, downsize, or merge

 

This is because in these circumstances there are staff issues that cannot be ignored such as: 

·        Fear of not having a job at the end of the project

·        Having to learn new tools, skills and processes, due to the new technology

·        Resentment of not being in control of their destiny

·        Fear that they will lose their relative importance in the organisation

 

If the staff issues are not managed then history shows that projects are often derailed and result in:

·        The initiative failing

·        The initiative being only partially successful – some areas work, others don’t

·        Delays and cost overruns

 

The need for project related change agents will always be important, but often leads to the business as usual aspects of managing change being missed.

Organisations, their departments and teams are organic and as such are dynamic, changing continuously to fulfill their role(s) and the needs of the people. These changes can be positive, but equally they can be quite negative. I will give you an example using fictitious names:

 

Example 1

ACME IT had an R&D department run by Tim, a manager whose approach was to direct. He would work with his trusted lieutenants and with them direct the team on their deliverables and timeframes. It worked well because the manager selected his lieutenants and the others self-selected according to whether they liked his style of leadership. When the employment market was weak there was little loss of staff as this was a “safe job”.

When the market picked up, Tim left the organisation and Jose, a manager with a consultative style took over the role. The change of management style was new to the group who were used to being told what to do by Tim rather than being asked by Jose. Many blossomed and grew as a result of the opportunity, while others felt a loss of importance as they were no longer the key lieutenants. The lieutenants left.

The change of managers, regardless of style, was a signal that things had changed and staff would need to adapt to the new environment. Jose was a people person and recognised that the team would need to be nurtured through the leadership change and that there would be a change in the dynamics of the team either by default or through good management by Jose. He took the front foot and communicated with his team individually and as a group, providing them with a clear vision, asking them for their input and encouraging them to be active participants in the process.

Over a 2-3 month period Jose changed the group from being compliant to being keen, positive and enthusiastic contributors.

 

Example 2

ACME IT had an R&D department run by Tim, a manager whose approach was to direct. He would work with his trusted lieutenants and with them direct the team on their deliverables and timeframes. It worked well because the manager selected his lieutenants and the others self-selected according to whether they liked his style of leadership. When the employment market was weak there was little loss of staff as this was a “safe job”.

When the market picked up, Tim left the organisation and Steve took over. Steve’s approach was quite regimented and he was far from a people person, being more interested in the technology than the people.

While the staff did not dislike him, he was hard to get to know and handed out the work in a way that they did not appreciate how they fitted into the overall delivery of solutions to the customer.

This meant that over the 2-3 month period after Steve took over productivity dropped and staff left.


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