Change management: how my favourite birthday present keeps on giving!

LinkedIn change management header

As regular readers will know, I received a wonderful birthday present for my 40th last year (if you’re not a regular reader, catch up here).

The beauty of a yearlong present is that it keeps on giving, however there’s always the risk of a lapse in attention.  I’ve found that whilst I embarked on the challenges with huge enthusiasm in the early stages, I’m now panicking at how little time I’ve got left until my next birthday at the beginning of September.   (Don’t worry, I won’t sulk if you don’t buy me a present.)

Tracking change

Similarly, if you’ve embarked on a process of company change, there’s a lot of activity at the beginning.  The process can get a bit muddy in the middle and then accelerate again when final decisions and implementation needs to be carried out.

It’s important to track your progress against the goals and structure that you set out at the beginning.  Creating my own virtual tick list allows me to see the fruits of my activities but also keep track of what the next step should be.  It’s also helping me to answer the constant “how many have you got left?” questions from my friends.

When you’re managing change that tracking process shouldn’t just be for you.  Your employees need to know what’s going on as well.  I’m hoping that you approach change with a clear view on what factors need to be considered, what will influence your ultimate decision and also what the timescales will be.  All of that needs to be shared with the people affected.

Embracing uncertainty

If there is any element of the process that can’t be decided until you’ve investigated further, make that clear.  Ideally you should be able to set out a process from beginning to end, but who lives in an ideal world?

Keep the lines of communication open

A good friend of mine has gone through not one, but two restructuring processes in the last couple of years.  The second one is still going on because the first one was handled so badly everyone’s terrified of making a mistake.  The main problem is that the timetable isn’t clear and neither is the communication.  It’s just leading to huge frustration as no one knows which job they’ll be in next, or whether they’ll have a job at all.

If you’re in a company structure where the decisions lie with top level management and there’s one (or more) layers of middle management in between, you run the risk of playing a game of Chinese whispers.  Even worse, in my friend’s case, the middle manager has simply blocked access to the decision makers altogether.

Don’t pass the buck.  If you’re making the decision, you should be the one to explain it.

Methods of communication

Sometimes a meeting is the best way to ensure your message gets across and everyone understands it.  However, if you’re in the middle of a consultation process there may not be much to tell.

In those circumstances, a cascade system is ideal.  There may be information that’s relevant to all affected staff and other documents that only need to be seen by specific individuals.  Getting clear documentation onto a central system means that staff can access it when they need it.  That could even be reminding themselves of something that was set out at the beginning of the process because they’ve lost the handout.

Communicating clearly

If you’re putting documents onto a central system, think carefully about the language you use and how it’s structured.  Quick reference is often an important consideration so group subjects appropriately and keep your paragraphs short so relevant information can be found easily.

Most importantly, if you’ve got staff who may be out of a job, the information you provide should not be about you.  It’s all about them.

What are your techniques for managing change?  Let me know in the comments!

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