It’s the New Year, and an exciting time to get projects moving, put ideas into action and make a fresh start. Maybe you’ve archived your work from last year – sorted through folders and piles of paper, tidied up your desktop and got yourself a fresh new notebook. This impulse to get prepared is an important way to tell your brain you are ready to set out on a new journey. Simple actions like making lists and getting organised are ways to prepare and create the right conditions for change.
This applies equally to organisations. Research indicates there is a direct correlation between how ready people are for change and how well they then 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 of it 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 successfully undertake change.
If you are facing change in your organisation, here is a checklist for what you can do to help get ready or prepare:
1. Clarify the reasons for change
Are the reasons for change clear – the Why and the organisational drivers behind it. Also the level of urgency around it, i.e. is it really critical for the business to do this immediately, if so explain why now 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 the extent and scope of change needed
Understand what must be preserved and maintained during change. For instance, if you have a really good culture for teamwork and collaboration, you don’t want to lose that when introducing hybrid working or switching fully to remote working. Regardless of the scale and potential disruption of change, continuity of critical services and service level agreements with customers have to 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? Often project and change teams are 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 more 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. 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.
The Change Management Practitioner qualification offers a range of models and routes to successful change, so you can find out what things can really make a difference for individuals, teams and organisations.