In Change Management

Change isn’t just a necessity for today’s organisations; it’s a fundamental catalyst for survival and growth. Yet, achieving successful organisational change is not easy. There will inevitably be obstacles along the way, potential resistance to change or lack of stakeholder engagement.  

The role of managers is crucial in supporting their teams to overcome these challenges and embed change. Project delivery teams and change management teams simply cannot be in touch with everyone, all the time. Project teams will implement change and move on to the next project. Change teams are often also under pressure to focus on the multitude of other change initiatives. It is the local line managers, who have the most frequent contact with team members facing change. They are the ones who know their team members best, and they can be a constant source of support all the way through change and beyond.  

It takes time and sustained effort to build new habits; for change to become embedded and for it to become ‘this is just the way we do things around here’.   Anyone who has eagerly bought an exercise machine, will know that just because something has been delivered, it does not mean that change has become the norm. The new exercise machine has not suddenly turned you into someone who automatically exercises everyday. It takes effort to consciously think about how to incorporate exercise into your routine and do this consistently for long enough, that it becomes a normal part of your life.  

Managers are best placed to support, encourage and nudge their teams through organisational change, and beyond, until the change becomes the ‘new normal’. They can act as guides, helping their team members navigate the ups and downs of change and transition.   

However, it can be tough for managers. You need to keep a lot of plates spinning. Not only do you have to ensure that change happens in your area, the day-to-day, business-as-usual activities must continue, and operational targets still need to be met. This is all whilst supporting your teams through change and managing your own feelings about change – after all you are not a robot.   

So, helping you prepare for change and equipping you with a useful toolkit to support your teams embrace change, can have a big impact on change success.  

A powerful and easy to use technique, from our manager’s change toolkit, is the idea of feedback loops.  

Checking understanding through feedback loops  

There can be many barriers to communication – the ‘noise’ that gets in the way. We cannot be sure that the other person interpreted the message in the same way that was intended it. People have different perspectives, interests and expectations. Add into the mix potential anxiety due to high volumes of change and high uncertainty. So, it’s easy to see how things can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. The best way to counteract this, is to use feedback loops to check understanding 

Feedback is essential to check how the other person has interpreted what you have said, and the meaning they give it.   

You can easily introduce feedback loops during your team meetings by asking team members to play back the key information they have heard and how they understood it. It’s best to do this frequently throughout the meeting, not just at the end to summarise key points.  

Incorporating these regular feedback loops into any meeting, will help clarify misunderstandings, surface assumptions and encourage more meaningful conversations within the team. It helps to build their confidence to speak up and is an important step in getting your teams more involved in change.   

At first some team members may be nervous about ‘playing back’ and voicing what they have heard. But as a manager you can encourage people do this and regularly pause, prompting them, if necessary, with questions such as:   

‘So, what you have you heard me say’ 

‘What are you taking away from what we’ve been talking about here’ 

You can also encourage team members to be proactive in giving their feedback, by saying things like 

‘So, what I’ve heard you say is….’ 

‘My understanding is that…’ 

‘So, what I think you’re saying is…’ 

Using feedback loops through the change journey  

These quality interactions help to create a safe and trusting environment, so that team members feel comfortable to share their ideas, voice their concerns and get involved in making change happen.  

The focus of the conversations will change through the change lifecycle: initially your team will be seeking information, such as the drivers for change and where things are heading. As they progress through the change journey, emotions may be up and down, and there will be nervousness about the level of uncertainty or having to learn to do things differently. As change is implemented, there are likely to be initial teething problems and more obstacles to overcome while changes are integrated and embedded down.  

Nor matter where you and your team are on the change journey, you can incorporate these feedback loops in conversations with your team. Involving people in this way, means everyone in the team can support each other. These quality conversations can provide valuable insights about what people think and feel about the change, the reasons for potential resistance or anxieties around change, and highlight any knowledge or skills gaps. Identifying concerns and issues early can avoid stress and smooth the path for successful and sustainable change.  

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