3. Implementing Change
It is one thing to identify the need for change and then to determine the appropriate changes to be made; implementing change however is another story. In some environments change is an up hill battle. In an environment of apathy or complacency successfully initiating and implementing change can be very difficult. Where a significant leader, especially one in a permission giving role, is adverse to change this too can make change a difficult prospect. The most supportive environment for change occurs when an organisation is experiencing numerically growth. Growth equals change and people are generally comfortable when change is required because of growth; change is seen in a positive light. No matter the environment though, change must be implemented carefully.
The successful implementation of change starts with clear and honest communication. Leaders must paint a clear and compelling picture as they vision cast the proposed changes. The ‘why’ of change as well as the actual changes about to take place must be communicated. If the ‘why’ is not communicated, people make up their own reasons for the change. This creates myths that in some cases are absurd reasons for change which undermine the support of change. The mistake is often to communicate the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ to senior leaders, but then communicate less and less of the why as you move down the levels of leadership. The ‘why’ should be communicated at all levels within the organisation. In communicating change leaders should also seek to affirm tradition and highlight existing strengths that are being built upon. In affirming tradition, leaders help those who will be impacted by the change to see that the change is only in order to continue great traditions in a modern era. In building on existing strengths leaders complement their teams and inspire them to new levels of excellence in areas they are already proud of. This inspires people for change as they see themselves moving from good to great.
Leaders should first communicate their message of change privately with team members they feel will be sure to support the change and with team members they feel may be opponents to change. Dialogue can be held with questions and concerns addressed and alleviated. This gives a leader the opportunity to rally supporters before going public with the change and to also help those that may not be so willing to embrace the change. Once supporters have been rallied and opponents assured, a leader should then communicate the change to the whole team or organisation.
Once change has been clearly communicated, teams should be given a period of time before change is implemented. Allowing time between the announcement of change and that change taking place gives people the chance to process the change and come on board with it or to pull back if they cannot work with the change. The more gradual a change the more readily people accept and embrace it. The more hurried a change is introduced the more people feel like they were forced somewhere they perhaps didn’t want to go. In the end though there will always be a date when the change will happen. When that date arrives change will occur and must then be reinforced.