We have been doing a lot of work on Change Management recently. The impact of the recession has been felt across both the private sector and public sector alike. The effects of restructuring and cost-saving policies are driving change across organisations large and small. And it’s not just the nature of change that people are struggling with but the unsettling feeling of one initiative after another; so that they hardly get to grips with one new change before another follows hot on its heels.
We tend to think that the rate of change today is faster than ever before and it certainly feels that way when we’re in the middle of the latest round of initiatives. It may be to do with the way we look back on the changes we’ve been through, but in our minds it always seems steadier in the past than it is right now. However, over two thousand years ago, ancient Greek philosophers commented on the pace of change even then, “What can we take on trust in this uncertain life? Happiness, greatness, pride – nothing is secure, nothing keeps” remarks Euripides in Hecuba.
There are some principles and techniques that can help with managing change whatever your circumstances. Here are some the key points we’ve found working closely with very different organisations dealing with large-scale change:
Change is messy by its nature – there are times when it’s difficult to see all the details, where they all fit or how they all join up. We have to step back and focus on taking the ‘helicopter view’ and not obsess over the finer points.
Change means being in-between – neither one thing nor the other, it is the stage where we haven’t quite let go of one way of working nor quite embraced the new way. We need to understand and appreciate how different people respond to change and provide the appropriate support.
Change is disorienting – some people like the feeling of dislocation, some hate it and others are simply sick of too much change. It is important here to provide some clear objectives, no matter how small, towards which people can direct their focus.
Change is challenging – there will always be obstacles and resistance to change; some we can expect and prepare for, others we have to take in our stride. It is crucial that once started, we keep going, keep up the momentum but be flexible in dealing with resistance and not bludgeon our way through.
Change is not and end in itself – change for change’s sake can be counter-productive, without a clear purpose or focus, change becomes a blind force that can do more harm than good. People need to know what is going to change, specifically, and how and why.