Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes and how to manage them
Most of us are familiar with the catchy lyrics of David Bowie’s song Changes. But have you ever really listened to them?
“Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet.”
He goes on to tell us to “turn and face the strange” by changing. Running a business – particularly one stuck in a rut – can be all of those things. It sometimes feels like you’re heading towards a dead end, time runs away from you, and for every sweet moment there’s a sour one. Change is strange, but it’s also a fact of life for any growing business. Whether it’s due to a shift in the economy, a takeover, merger or acquisition, or technological advances, change is inevitable.
So how can you face your change (and your strange) successfully? How can you skillfully get from A to B, get your employees and colleagues on board, and implement lasting, successful, change?
1. Involve every single person. While change is going to be a trickle-down process – starting with those at the very top – it’s important that the trickle doesn’t dry up midway. Every layer of personnel needs to be involved, and to feel like they are important to the process. After all, research shows that the more engaged employees are in the process, the better they’ll perform in their job. Set up focus groups, presentations, one-on-ones, special ‘change’ task forces – anything it takes to get employees engaged with the shift that’s happening, and coming up with their own suggestions on how it can be dealt with.
2. Identify and anticipate the problems, and customise your solutions. There are problem people and people’s problems. Two very different things! The problem people are easier to sniff out. They’re the ones who have shown resistance and/or opposition before, and it’s important to deal with them individually. People’s problems are not as easy. Perhaps you have staff members who are incredibly loyal to their manager. Ordinarily that’s a good thing. In a time of change – when perhaps that manager gets promoted – it can turn into a problem. Again, customisation is key here. Remember that you’re dealing with individuals, not figures on a spreadsheet.
3. Know there will be resistance. Even the most diligent, confident, capable employees will dig their heels in. It’s natural. Everyone is unsettled by change and nobody wants to feel the slightest bit incompetent or threatened in their job.
4. Communicate. Make your action plan clear, and don’t shirk in communicating that with staff. Don’t fall into that common management trap of thinking others are naturally on the same page as you, or can somehow read your mind. Check in with people on the progress, and keep checking in with them.
And lastly, back to that master of change himself, the late Mr Bowie. It’s said that he was surprised by the success of the song Changes and its now famous stuttering chorus. The song has endured, and stood the test of time. Here’s hoping your company’s changes will too.