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Managing For Rapid Change and Uncertainty

The implementation of change is a distinct stage in overall organizational change. It’s appropriate only when the organization has prepared for change, when the early uncertainty has abated and people are open to a new way of acting.

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Implementing Change

The implementation of change is a distinct stage in overall organizational change. It’s appropriate only when the organization has prepared for change, when the early uncertainty has abated and people are open to a new way of acting. This is the time to implement or introduce the change. When implementing a change plan, there are three tasks: secure commitment, dispel rumors, and involve people.

The first task when implementing change is to secure commitment from those involved. You do this by:

  • communicating the nature of the change — employees need to know the reasons for the change, the origins of the need, and the risks of not implementing the change. It’s natural for people to resist change at first. Explaining the nature of the change and why it’s necessary will aid acceptance.
  • describing the effects of the change — people need to know how the change will affect them, and how their roles will change. If employees are uncertain about the change’s impact, insecurity and uncertainty will grow, affecting morale and causing resistance.
  • clarifying the aims and benefits of the change — This means first being clear about what the change is intended to achieve and why it’s important that the organization achieves this aim. When confronted with change, employees will often ask “what’s in it for me?” Increasing awareness of the aims and benefits of the change will make employees more motivated to make the change happen.

The second task when implementing change is to dispel rumors. You can do this by:

  • answering questions with honesty — if there’s a communication void, it will be filled with rumors. Answering questions honestly eliminates uncertainty and ensures that rumors are dispelled immediately.

  • addressing problems promptly — quickly identify the source of a problem, determine the best solution, and apply it.

  • referring back to operational necessities — this reminds employees about the reasons for the change and gives them a firm explanation for why it’s being implemented. This negates speculation and rumors.

The third task when implementing change is to involve people. You can do this by:

  • facilitating employee involvement — employees need to feel like they’re part of what’s happening. You can involve employees by listening to their opinions, suggestions, and criticisms, and by giving them input into the details of the change.

  • developing individual action plans — this enables individuals to implement and adjust to the change. Employees may need assistance in adapting to new roles or responsibilities.

  • reinforcing the change by generating short-term success — this means celebrating interim achievements, which enables earlier identification of success. This reinforces employees’ efforts to keep working toward the goals.

During the implementation of change, a manager should work to secure commitment, dispel rumors, and involve people. You can secure commitment by communicating the nature of the change and why it’s necessary, describing the effect of the change on everyone, being clear about the aims, and emphasizing the benefits of the change.

You can dispel rumors by answering questions with honesty, addressing problems promptly, and referring back to operational necessities when discussing the need for change. Finally, you can involve people by facilitating employee involvement, developing individual action plans, and reinforcing the change by generating short-term successes.

Reinforcing Change

Any changes that have been implemented within an organization need to be internalized so that they become part of its daily functioning. This means reinforcing and embedding the changes into the organization. A manager does this by weaving the changes into the culture, sustaining the changes, evaluating the process, and celebrating success.

Having implemented the changes, try to weave them into the organization’s culture. This ensures that employees continue to behave in a way that meets the objectives the changes were intended to achieve. Even if the changes were embraced initially, people may revert to the old way of doing things if the changes weren’t properly ingrained into the culture.

It’s necessary to first identify barriers to sustaining the changes. Some employees revert to the old way out of familiarity. Or they may feel ill-equipped to act in the new way. This often happens when management doesn’t allocate enough resources to enable real adoption of the changes. It’s necessary to provide training that offers genuine hands-on experience with the new procedures.

Then identify what supports the changes. It’s important that the culture be conducive to the changes, which means proper training and preparation. Changes can also be supported through financial and nonfinancial incentives, which can help maintain people’s motivation.

Another way a manager can reinforce and embed implemented changes is by developing measures to sustain the changes. Ways of sustaining changes include:

  • getting the support of the leadership of the organization — if a change program is to be sustained, it’s essential to get leadership support. Employees infer what’s important from the behavior of management — and actions count more than words.

  • adapting the structure of the organization — a new structure that reinforces the new way of doing things must be developed. This also means developing rules, policies, customs, and behaviors that reinforce the new approach.

  • implementing a system of accountability — the change must be continually managed and measured with a clear understanding of who’s accountable for what. It’s a good idea to establish a feedback mechanism that gives a clear picture of progress and performance so that people don’t feel their efforts are wasted. This also provides an incentive to work toward the objectives of the change, as it makes it clear who’s accountable for each component.

The third way a manager can reinforce and embed implemented changes is by evaluating the process. Ways of evaluating the process include checking for success through a post-implementation review, collecting data on the change process, analyzing employee feedback, and conducting a root cause analysis.

It’s important to check for success to ensure that the objectives have been achieved. A post-implementation review should set out to answer three fundamental questions about the change process: did it resolve the issues it was intended to address? Is there scope for improvements that could deliver even greater benefits? Are there lessons to be learned that could be applied to future initiatives?

Evaluating the process also entails collecting data that enables a performance assessment of the change process. This helps management to determine whether the change has had the intended impact and to identify problems. It’s also necessary to solicit and analyze employee feedback.

You do this to assess how employees are reacting to the changes. This will highlight any difficulties that are being encountered and identify potential improvements. It’s also important to conduct a root cause analysis if there are post-implementation problems. This will indicate the corrective action required.

The final way a manager can reinforce and embed implemented changes is by celebrating success. Ways of celebrating success include recognizing success and achievements, and then rewarding these achievements. The recognition of success should be immediate, personal, and sincere.

Recognizing and rewarding success helps employees find closure on the period of transformation. It also shows appreciation for their efforts during a difficult time and gives them confidence that future changes will be successful.

Once implemented, changes need to be reinforced and embedded within the organization. There are four measures a manager can use to do this. First, the changes must be woven into the organization’s culture, which requires you to identify barriers and supports to the changes. Second, it’s necessary to sustain the changes, which is done by getting

the support of the leadership, adapting the structure of the organization, and implementing a system of accountability. Third, it’s necessary to evaluate the change process. You do this by checking for success, collecting data, analyzing employee feedback, and conducting a root cause analysis. Finally, it’s important to celebrate successes, which means recognizing and rewarding achievements.

Source: Medium

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