Practical experience suggests that the employer and employees who work together to create meaningful change processes can and do increase company productivity & profit.
If there is one constant to our business environment it is change. It is fair to say that while you may not get a chance to determine when change occurs, you can learn to manage it. As a business owner unless you appreciate this fact it will be difficult to bring yourself, much less your organization, through the variety of regular challenges facing your business.
Change occurs in a variety of areas – customer perspective on product and service value, competitive pricing pressures, new worker approaches to established work processes and procedures, technology, by ownership, and communications methods – to name a few.
We understand that people have different talents, personalities, motivations, and skill sets. It is helpful to understand that due to these differences each person will approach or respond to organizational changes differently. The more you understand each person’s different talents, personalities, motivations, and skill sets the better able you can manage each person and the business through the impactful change.
Who Is Responsible For Managing Change?
Some management practitioners presume that the leader and manager are responsible for managing change. While managers do have an important role in the change process, it is consistent with the practice of workforce alignment to enable employees within the workforce to participate in change management practices.
Let’s look at some of the commonly accepted factors to management of organizational change.
- The existence of either a formal or an informal change management process that incorporates the elements of planning, measurement, collaboration, stakeholder involvement, and feedback.
- The planning, consultation, and involvement with and amongst those impacted by change.
- A clear understanding and consensus on the need for the change, what the change objective is, and how the success of the change will be measured.
- Understanding the impact of the change on the business, its ownership, employees, customers, and business partners, and clearly communicating the impact of the change to these affected stakeholders.
- Incorporating feedback from affected stakeholders to ensure it is anticipated, acknowledged, and understood into the change measurement process.
Formal Or Informal Change?
Certain formal change management processes include continuous quality improvement and project management. Each of these is characterized by a step-based, sequential, analytical process that seeks to examine a variety of factors. While some of the steps may be intuitive, project management and continuous quality improvement processes are learned and applied consistently in order to assist businesses to manage change more effectively and more efficiently.
Many informal change management processes rely more on the intuitive, gut approach. They follow a plan; it’s just that the plan is internal to the individual processing the information and communicating to others. The steps to the plan are not always clear to others.
For example, a sales employee saw a need to introduce a tracking process for sales leads and closures. His company did not have a process. He introduced the need to his coworkers, managers, and the owner (presentation). He asked each of his coworkers, his managers, and the owner if it made sense (asked permission), asked each of the stakeholders for their input into the design of the tracking process (inclusion), presented a draft of the process for review and refinement (preparation and design), made changes to the proposed process (modification), developed a measurement process to determine how effective it would be (measurement), obtained final approval, and, with all stakeholders approval, implemented the tracking process (implementation).
Who Really Directs The Change?
I imagine some would read this example and ask why the manager and owner did not see the need and direct the change process.
In fact, a central assumption to the concept of effective management and motivation of employees towards workforce alignment is that change can be initiated at any level of the business.
The example simply illustrates that a manager does not need to manage the change; he simply needs to ensure that his employees are equipped with the tools to plan, measure, collaborate, involve other stakeholders, and solicit and incorporate feedback into the change process.
If the management and motivation of employees effectively values their knowledge, it becomes important to not diminish an employee’s capacity to initiate and implement a change process.
Conversely, if a manager believes he is in his position due to his unique ability to problem solve and to initiate and manage change it may inhibit active employee buy in and ownership of any change introduced by the manager.
How Can You Deal With Insecurity?
Some time ago when implementing continuous quality improvement practices within a business I managed, groups of employees were trained in the description, evaluation, and prescription process (analysis and/or scientific method). One of my managers, after listening to a presentation of recommendations from a work process improvement team, objected that I would empower employees to do what he was supposed to be doing. On reflection I asked the manager if he was the only person entitled to be familiar with the scientific method. Rather than work with his team to identify effective work process changes he objected to any effort by his employees to initiate change management.
This example underlies the need to seek an understanding of other individual perspectives when looking at change opportunities in a business. It is not uncommon to find managers who will appear resentful when change is presented by others. The perfect world will often be altered by reality – low authenticity can result from low self-direction, role confusion, or low self-esteem, especially when people are not fully self-aware of their own talents, skills, behaviors, and values; and do not understand the benefit of fully valuing other talents, skills, behaviors, and values. Where are you on this continuum? Be my guest, take this complimentary assessment to find out.