Managing change

Managing changeThere’s a lot of change afoot in the staffing industry, especially in our neck of the woods. This is the first half of a two-part series we’re doing on change in the workplace. Of course, managing change is a huge topic; entire graduate-level degrees can be obtained on organizational change. We know we’re just scratching the surface with this two-parter, but we hope the info will be helpful and might inspire you to look into larger bodies of knowledge on change.

There are a lot of different frameworks for thinking about change; John Kotter’s 8-step plan is one of the major ones. We’ve decided to go with something we call the 4 Cs. No, it has nothing to do with purchasing diamonds; it’s four things that are absolutely necessary for successful change in the workplace.

Clarity

Okay, this one does have some overlap with diamond buying. But instead of looking at how sparkly a rock is, clarity here means a crystal-clear understanding of why you’re making the change. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “He who has a strong enough ‘why’ can bear almost any ‘how.’ ”

Meaningful organizational change begins with a clear, strong business reason. Clarity also means an understanding of what the benefits of the change are, what possible drawbacks might be and how it will affect various people and groups.

If you’ve ever experienced a company reorganization based solely on the recommendation of a consultant, you know how important clarity is. You don’t want that kind of confusion, cynicism and eventual entropy to accompany your change, do you? So start with clarity.

Communication

The next C is almost as important as clarity, because no matter how clear your reasons for the change, if nobody else knows those reasons or the path the company is going to take to realize your vision, your change is dead in the water.

Different people have different reactions to change, and these reactions occur on an emotional level. Some of us love it; others find it frightening and unnerving. Especially in this economy, many people are wary of change because they fear “change” is code for “layoffs.” So you must be sure you understand the emotional impact of the change on different audiences and, if possible, individuals. When you communicate with these audiences, try to view the change from their perspective, and address the emotions they’re likely to have.

Communication is a two-way street, of course, and never is this more true than during change. Check in with those affected by the change regularly; make yourself available for questions and chats. Whenever possible, communicate with people affected by the change in person and truly listen to their concerns.

Later this week, we’ll look at the other two Cs: Consistency and Convincing.

What are your thoughts on change? Do you like it, tolerate it or dread it? Have you lived through some of those awful reorganizations? Let us know in the comments!

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