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We hear this phrase “Change Management” as frequently as “Excuse me”, one has to be really excused because change management has become a fad, far from reality. Change Management is a process and a journey towards desired future state from current ineffective state. This could involve mostly people, but other elements that go through a change and they could include Business Processes, Technology, Business Activities etc.
When leaders or managers are planning to manage change, there are five key principles that need to be kept in mind:
Principle1- Different People React Differently To Change
Principle2- Everyone Has Fundamental Needs That Have To Be Met
Principle3- Change Often Involves A Loss, And People Go Through The “Loss Curve“
Principle4- Expectations Need To Be Managed Realistically
Principle5- Fears Have To Be Dealt With
Miracles do not happen, we the people and transformational leaders make it happen. Change management should be as simple as changing your attire. However, it is complicated because it deals with human behaviour and the change draws people out of their comfort zone and creates anxiety stemming out of fear of failure.
In my opinion, change management is not a business process but mindset management process. As soon as people feel comfortable with what is called as change will embrace it without any mental blocks.
It is not as simple as said and done. What it takes it to make it simple and easy to achieve? Few interesting dynamics pop-ups in my mind and they are emotional intelligence, listening skills, communication skills, ability to walk the talk. One could question that listening is part of communication skills. Technically no, practically yes. The technical definition of communication is “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”. As you can notice, listening is not part of communication. When you are unable to listen to other’s perspective, how can you exchange information effectively? Listen and Silent are spelt with same letters. Think about it. Practically, listening is part of communication because when the exchange of information is considered as an interactive process, one cannot exchange information effectively unless one understands other party’s thought process. See what happened to the patient (below graphic) on the operation table.
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” Zeno of Citium
The idiom emotional intelligence is becoming more popular recently. But what is it? “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” If we dissect the definition, the critical words are aware, control, express and handle are the keywords of emotional intelligence. Be aware of the other person’s emotional state, control your emotions, express without hurting other’s emotions, and handle emotional conflict effectively. And finally, show empathy and focus on the issue and not the person.
“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.” – Amit Ray
In the change management mode, the leaders and the change managers talk a lot to convince people about the change and that is ‘talk the talk’. However, to make the change successful, it is absolutely necessary to ‘Walk the talk’. This means actions speak louder than words. Words are critical as all the people involved in the change process may not have very good comprehending abilities. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to convey the change in as many ways as possible. It could be a good idea to display posters about the change with motivational quotes such as, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”; “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”; “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”; “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”; “He who rejects change is the architect of decay”; “We can do it together”; “We can do it!”.
In this article, I have put the cart in front of the horse. I should have discussed the barriers to the change management before addressing those challenges. I have worked for a CEO who wanted the solution first and the problem next. I have followed his philosophy in articulating about the change management. Now let us look at the barriers.
“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.” Suzy Kassem
In my opinion, there are no barriers to change, they are virtual barriers, let us examine them. The first one is “Resistance to Change”. The resistance could be political or mind block arising out of fear of failure. And the direct resistance could be due to fear of unknown and indirect due to political reasons.
Before embarking on the change it is necessary to understand the current state (organisational cultural scan) even before thinking about the change. Some traditional organisations may not be ready for change, they are used to doing things in their own way and style. The culture, processes and systems of large organizations dwarf the complexity of a change management idea/attempt. Please remember that an architect wouldn’t renovate a building without looking at the existing blueprints. The current state of the organisation is the blueprint for the change management process.
Managing changes in any organization can be compared to repairing an aircraft when airborne. Change is always a moving target because as we travel through the change journey, expectations change, business dynamics change and outcomes also could change. Long drawn change process may have many integration points that are potential to fail.
In current globalised economy, business is dynamic and fast paced which initiates change management. External factors such as competition play a vital role. In many cases, external forces drive organizational change. Competition, external threats, technological change, market conditions and economic forces are all common drivers of change. Organizations may expedite a change in response to external threats.
Change is not compulsory and at the same time one cannot exist and grow without change. Change is inevitable.
“After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.” – Terry Eagleton