Change management is a term that gets used fairly loosely when companies hope to implement change. It can seem fairly straightforward. The company wants to move from x to z. How do the leaders make it happen? Well, through Change Management, of course. But what does that mean really? A definition that I like to work from is “the application of a set of tools, processes, skills and principles for managing the people side of change to achieve the required outcomes of a change project or initiative.” The idea here is that if you cannot get the people who need to implement the change on board, the change will not be sustainable and will ultimately fail.

outplacement-servicesWhen I work with leaders around implementing change, I always start with educating them on why employees resist change. The first being that people have to be able to “see” your vision to truly buy into what needs to happen. If they cannot understand the “why,” they simply will not get on board. Second, there is comfort in the status quo and often an attitude of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” For long-term employees, they may feel that the requested change goes against the organizational history and culture. Of course, in an age of layoffs and restructuring, fear of job loss is a powerful motivating factor to stay with the way things have always been.

Managers can experience all of those feelings along with the idea that the change is an additional burden they don’t care to undertake. They may be concerned about the change causing a loss of power and control or they may fear they lack the skills necessary to manage the change. At the heart of all these reasons lies one common factor: people with real fears and reasons that need to be overcome in order to affect real change.

There is much research surrounding this area but I find the Four P’s (and an R) are very effective and basic ideas to bear in mind as we help our employees navigate the waters of organizational change.

Purpose: Describe why you are making the change. Help your employees SEE the end picture. People resist that which they do not understand. Address the “what’s in it for me?” factor.

Picture: Describe what the future will look like. Help them see the end picture, know what it looks like and what it will FEEL like.

Plan: Describe the steps we need to take to get there. Help them know HOW we will get there.

Part: Describe the part you need the specific employee to play; specify your requests; help them FEEL it personally.

And finally, the one R: Repeat: once is never enough! In this high-tech world, we need to see something more than 12 times to begin to adopt it as reality. Repetition is the ingredient that gets missed the most.

Change management is a complicated topic. How have you experienced both good and bad examples of change in your organizations?

Susan currently serves as Chair for OI Partners and is a founding partner of ICC Inc. She is responsible for leading operations, finance and strategy. With more than two decades of business experience, Susan has developed the ability to end “business bloat” (inefficiencies, cross-purposes and miscommunication) and retool companies into sleeker, smoother, more strategically focused organizations.

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