As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Sometimes the simplest of actions, such as making a list, archiving old work and projects or clearing through piles of paper, can help you take those first steps towards change. The impulse to prepare is an important way of telling your brain you are ready to embark on a new journey and create the right conditions for change. This applies equally to organisations.
When is the right time for change?
Research indicates a direct correlation between how ready people are for change and how well they adapt to change. Of course, there are lots of changes going on all the time in organisations, and the pace of change is relentless. But for each new change that gets thrown into the mix, think about how you can ‘warm’ people up to the idea and help them become change-ready.
Change readiness is defined as an individual’s beliefs, attitudes and intentions regarding the extent to which change is needed and the organisation’s capacity to undertake change successfully.
So how can you prepare for change?
Resilience to change is a key factor, and building change resilience is about finding ways to help people move towards reward and away from a feeling of threat and uncertainty. Alongside this are a number of ways you can support and prepare for the change your organisation is facing, whilst at the same time building resilience.
1. Clarify the reasons for change
Are the reasons for change clear? It is important to outline why the change is needed and the organisational drivers behind it. Also, consider the level of urgency around it, i.e. is it really critical for the business to do this immediately? If so, explain why and why this takes higher priority than other initiatives. Often people do not disagree that the change should happen; they just don’t agree with why it has to happen at that time, when so many other changes may be in progress already.
2. Agree on the extent and scope of change needed
Understand what must be preserved and maintained during change. For instance, if you have a good teamwork and collaboration culture, you don’t want to lose that when introducing hybrid working or switching to fully remote working. Regardless of the scale and potential disruption of change, continuity of critical services and service level agreements with customers must be protected during change. So emphasise what will stay the same along with what needs to change.
3. Establish clear roles, reporting lines and ground rules
Have clear roles been established for directing, supporting, designing and implementing this change, are people clear on their roles and how they will work with each other and across teams? Project and change teams are often formed at short notice, with people from different specialist areas, divisions and locations, so they may be working together for the first time. Team members should agree on the processes to follow for raising issues, reporting, and making decisions.
4. Test ideas and gather more information
Before finalising the approach or attempting to develop any detailed plans, gather more information to refine ideas and perhaps run a pilot. Arrange forums to talk to people who will be affected by the change and get their perspectives on how to go about this.
5. Assess the level of change management capability in the organisation
It’s important to have an experienced and credible change team to help make changes happen and ensure people are engaged along the way. Assess if there is a skills gap and how to get support for the team if this is needed.
6. Consider capacity – people, systems, processes
How much extra are people going to be expected to do on top of their day-to-day commitments? Often people are so stretched already that they do not have the time to be involved in change activities as well. Consider how this burden can be eased, perhaps by arranging for temporary fill-ins to do their operational tasks.
7. Get people engaged and listen to their concerns
Allow people to voice their grievances and concerns (better out than in!); otherwise, these fester and amplify, becoming much bigger problems and generating greater resistance. People want to feel heard. Good listening skills enable change, so create opportunities for dialogue and tap into the expertise of communications specialists within your organisation if necessary —so you can tell the story of the proposed change in a way that resonates with all those involved.
When managing change and the impact of change, it’s tempting to just “roll your sleeves up and get stuck in”, especially when there are tight deadlines to meet and pressure from the top to be seen to be delivering, but scheduling time for these preparatory tasks is critical for helping changes to really stick.
Find out more about The Change Management Practitioner qualification, offering a range of models and routes to successful change, so you can discover what things can make a difference for individuals, teams and organisations.