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There’s no denying that successfully navigating an enterprise through a transitional period is no easy task. As it turns out, most people are inherently fearful of change for one reason or another. In both our personal and professional lives, we seem to resist the new in an attempt to preserve the old, whether consciously or subconsciously.
As a result, company executives, team leaders, and managers are challenged with ensuring that new changes are implemented in the most efficient, effective, and pragmatic manner possible through a process known as change management. However, in recent years, the catch-all phrase has lost part of its meaning, especially in a world so strongly impacted by a global pandemic and quick shifts in norms in almost every aspect of the business.
So, what is change management? In short, this term refers to all of the numerous methods in which organizations help teams, individuals, and the company as a whole throughout a period of change. It provides a structured approach to the transition, giving a clear road map between the current state of the business and the future state that management wishes to achieve, as well as the benefits that are to be expected.
There are an inexhaustible number of causes for a company wanting to change its practices, including responding to a crisis (such as COVID-19), shifting consumer demands, digital transformation initiatives, growing competitive pressure, and even acquisitions and mergers.
Whatever the cause for the change, it’s critical to assess the current state of affairs inside your organization so that you can put steps in place to make the transition as smooth as possible. After all, change for the sake of change will be detrimental to your organization, as it places unnecessary pressure on both your workforce and your resources. With this in mind, your approach should be clear, precise, and well-defined, with a clear objective in mind. That way, risks and potential resistance may be reduced, and a smooth transition can be achieved.
Nevertheless, there are still several misconceptions surrounding change management and the way it should be implemented. If you fall victim to one of these mistakes, it could increase your chance to fail, or at the very least, not go as smoothly as you would have liked. On that note, let’s take a look at three of the most common misconceptions:
One of the biggest mistakes that executives make when implementing a change management strategy is assuming that change can only come from the top down. However, the fact of the matter is that it is impossible to successfully mandate the adoption of new business operations, technologies, or policies without employee buy-in.
In many ways, change must become ingrained in your corporate culture in order for it to be facilitated successfully. This means you’ll need to communicate with your employees about the change, why it’s happening, and what they’ll be expected to do throughout the process. It’s also crucial for them to understand how it will affect them in the future, both individually and in terms of their job role within their teams. When you quantify the impact the change will have on them, you’ll find that people are more eager to comply.
Suppose you run a larger company where lower-level employees rarely interact with executive leadership. In that case, your managers can serve as a vital link between employees, fostering commitment and support for your initiatives. They should be encouraged to welcome feedback, build trust, and provide guidance when needed.
As mentioned earlier, resistance is a completely natural (and understandable) reaction to change. Another misconception that leaders make about change management is that employees will easily adapt to transitional periods. They do not account for the time or resources it will take to handle objections and overcome any conflicts that may arise.
With that said, resistance can easily be turned into a positive, as it gives you important information that you should use wisely. For example, if some of your departments are heavily against the implementation of new technology, question why. Is there a reason why they do not want to change from their old ways?
Sometimes, it helps to dig a little deeper when these situations arise by sitting down and talking with these groups to figure out why there is resistance. Maybe it will point out something to you that you may have missed, or it may help you discover that certain individuals need more training to help them develop the requisite skills so they can be fully ready to jump on board when the time comes.
Setting unreasonable goals is the antithesis of productivity. If you have a strict deadline in mind for implementing your change and refuse to bend, it will put a lot of strain and stress on your employees, and it will almost always cause more harm than good. While it’s necessary to have a well-thought-out strategy, you must also be willing to adapt when things don’t go as planned. After all, if you’re asking your staff to make a major adjustment, the very least you can do is be willing to modify your plan when needed.
While it may be tempting to rush things, you must ensure that you and your staff have the time to comprehend and come to terms with the changes. Allow enough time for employees to train themselves on what needs to be done, and give them ample opportunity to vent their concerns and provide feedback when appropriate.