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Management = Change Management

"How do you manage change?" It's one of the most frequently mentioned challenges I hear when conducting The Leading from the Heart Workshop. Fact is, in today's work world, management is all about managing change. I think the underlying question is, "How do you get employees to accept change?"

In an article for Harvard Business Review (Why Do Employees Resist Change?, May/June 1996), change expert Paul Strebel reports that more than half of all radical change initiatives at Fortune 1,000 companies fail because senior management ignores an obvious issue: managers and employees view change differently. Top managers see change as necessary to meet competitive demands or improve productivity. Employees, on the other hand, consider change disruptive and unsettling.

It's unsurprising that employees are loath to accept change, but a closer look reveals the cause of that reluctance. Strebel describes how addressing technical, psychological, and values concerns of employees can better motivate them to accept changes.

Employees first need to understand the mechanics of a change and how it affects the way they do their jobs. Imagine your organization replacing a manual timekeeping system with a time clock. Initial resistance could simply reflect questions about using the new machine. How do I insert my timecard? What if I forget to punch in one day? Who do I go to with questions? Employees must understand the technical aspects of a change before they can implement it.

Next, workers need to psychologically agree to the change. For instance, they'll want to know if the change increases their workload or threatens their job security. How change is communicated is critical to ensuring emotional acceptance by employees. Too many organizations inform the entire workforce at once, including front-line supervisors and middle managers. Then, when employees have questions, their direct supervisors are unprepared with answers. Leaders equipped to respond to employee concerns can hasten their employees' psychological acceptance of change.

Finally, employees wonder if the change reflects an alteration of the organization's values. If the organization professes to trust its employees, does the installation of a time clock indicate a lack of trust? Although the benefits of streamlining labor cost accounting might seem obvious, workers are influenced by their own fears and those of coworkers. Leaders must take time to explain the objectives of change. Of course, when leaders Live By The Values They Profess every day, employees are less likely to attribute procedural changes to a shift in company values.

When you properly teach your employees how to implement a change, remove any psychological concerns they have, and demonstrate that the organization's values are constant, you'll drive change effectively. And nowadays, it's all about change.

NOTE: Did you know you can read this Harvard Business Review article, and current and past articles from hundreds of magazines and newspapers for free at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library website? All you need is a library card. Log on, click Electronic Resources, then Magazines and Newspapers.
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