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Change is Gonna Come

It was about 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon when I got a call from my human resources director requesting my presence in her office.

A Systematic Approach to Change Can Help Achieve a Desired Outcome

Mike “Sparky” Detmer ([email protected]) is president of Niles Audio

It was about 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon when I got a call from my human resources director requesting my presence in her office. So you can only imagine what was going through my head as I made the long walk down the hall.

Fortunately the conversation was on a different note. You see, the chairman of the large corporation that I worked for was very involved in its day-to-day operations. And, as many great leaders do, he poled his workers to find out how things could be done better. But in this case, worker suggestions lead to operational streamlining that threatened the very jobs of those who made the suggestions. Yet the chairman wanted to keep these valuable employees and retrain them to perform different roles in the enterprise. This involved considerable change.

That’s where I came in. As the director of training it was my task to retrain this group of individuals into sales and customer service agents. But, at the time, I didn’t have a clue how to do that. I was told that some of the employees resisted the change and were uncertain. Yet I wanted them to embrace their new roles and succeed.

“Thanks for the opportunity,” I said as I tentatively accepted the challenge. “But I don’t even know where to begin. How do I get these folks from here to there,” I questioned the HR director.

The next week I was back to college to learn the basic psychology of change and some fundamental techniques to address change in virtually any situation. Ever since that class, I’ve carried a laminated wallet card describing the “Guidelines for Change” with me, referring to it at every job I’ve had since. I hope you will apply these principles as you implement changes to improve your business:

1 Create a sense of need for change. Typically fact patterns and logical reasoning does the trick here. When everybody understands the need, change happens more easily. To do this you need to state the “as-is” situation. Then paint the “should-be” situation and describe how the planned change will improve the situation.

2 Demonstrate top management support. Nobody wants to change without feeling that their business leaders are behind the initiative. I would challenge partnerships to demonstrate that both partners are on board or risk divided response to any change initiative.

3 Involve those affected. Make sure to meet with the affected parties. Let them ask questions and listen, listen, listen to their concerns before replying. Show empathy and genuine concern.

4 Change supporting structures. Ask yourself, what must we do today that’s different than yesterday to get the improvement we need and make sure the supporting process, people, and/or systems are in place.

5 Insure that the goals and methods of change are well understood. You have to communicate what success looks like from the change. Along the way set up key performance indicators tied to a time line so everyone knows what is expected to happen and when.

6 Anticipate fall out. You must understand critical elements to go forward and have some back-up plans in place to ensure functionality if a component falls out, because something will fall out.

7 Provide for a period of learning and adjustment. One simple technique to do so is redundancy. If you are changing your job scheduling system for instance, run the new system and the old system simultaneously for a few weeks until your staff understands the differences from what was to what will be. This provides time for knowledge transfer as well as establishes a safety net in case the new system is flawed. The end result will be a robust new system from a change/improvement that is transparent to your customers.

>Understanding Why People Resist Change
Resistance to change can come from a number of factors, including economic, social, or status concerns, a misunderstanding, or even lack of skill, proficiency, or trust. Frequently though, these reasons can be conquered with coaching, counseling, or training. But you’ve got to see the Components of Resistance in order to act appropriately. Don’t be too quick to dismiss resistance to change. Rather, learn from it. Resistance can help you identify communication problems or that the change you are planning may be inappropriate.
–Mike Detmer