Managing change – no matter what the topic of change – has some essential elements which, if done well, augur well for the outcome of the change management project. Here are three essentials of change management: Leadership, Personal Beliefs and Communication Elements.
Change Management Essential 1: Leadership
Successful change management leaders have three common attributes. They are persistent, insistent and consistent. Leading people to perform at a level which will allow the organisation to reach its goal requires leaders to have the right attitude. They must, when managing people’s performance, be insistent, persistent and consistent.
Leaders must insist on minimum standards of performance as a result of the change. By insisting on minimum standards, the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable during and after the change are clearly marked. If the leader is insistent, then many people will self-regulate their behaviour. Leaders must be persistent with regard to the change. If the leader vacillates with regard to what is expected of people during and as a result of the change, people will not self-regulate beyond their own beliefs of right and wrong. Groups like this tend to become unmanageable or leaders will bemoan how the “culture” of the organisation prevents it from reaching the goal of the change. Leaders must be consistent. When a leader reacts differently to different people, especially of varying levels of power that have the same behaviours with regard to the change, the concentration falls on the politics of the change rather than the desired behaviours and outcomes. Alternatively, when a perennially poor performer changes behaviour and strives to meet targets and ensures standards are not breached, it is not a reason for wild celebration or indifference. It is time to apply the same rewards a leader would when any person behaved that way.
Change Management Essential 2: Personal beliefs
For individuals to adopt a change requires three conditions to be met simultaneously, when it comes to their personal beliefs.
They have to have an opinion of the change and that opinion must be that “this change will be good for me” and better than, say,” the top five things I could be doing”. If people have a muted personal opinion of the change, that is worse than a negative opinion of the change. Leaders can engage people with an opinion in a dialogue to convince them of the benefits of a change. They cannot engage the agnostic. It is important when embracing high level of change to have a strong communication campaign that goes well beyond emails and a single team briefing. They have to believe that the elements of the change are the norm. They have to believe that everyone is going to have to embrace the change and that their peers and friends in the organisation believe that is a good thing to do. They have to believe they have the capability and capacity to do whatever is required of them as part of the change. This means they have to believe that they have the knowledge and skills, authority and access to data to make any decisions to adopt the change. If any of these personal beliefs are not present, then the likelihood of individuals adopting the change is severely diminished.
Change Management Essential 3: Communication elements
When communicating change, leaders should use a combination of facts and symbols to communicate the change and do so with an obvious degree of emotion and personal passion for the change. Facts and emotion are self-explanatory. The symbols I talk of may be an internal brand including a logo or just a phrase and specific colours and font to make it stand out from everyday communications. It may be something as simple as the style of team briefings used. Something that people can associate the thought that “this is different” from the norm. There are many examples of people whose job it is to communicate, that get this wrong. One is Julia Gillard. Only when Julia Gillard strayed onto the topic of education was her passion on display. She was usually well in command of the facts and at times used symbolism. She was, in the end, a poor communicator because she did not use the full repertoire of communication elements required to get people to believe in an idea or a change. For another three essentials to change management, make sure you check out our article: Change Management Essentials – Part II