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How to Effectively Managing Change in Business

26 September 2016

The need to effectively manage change, especially in business, is sometimes difficult to understand. Change is good, or so we are told. But employees, managers and business owners all resist change, even if it is for the betterment of the company. 

We look at why change is necessary, how it interacts with the five stages of grief and then some tips on dealing with change in the workplace. 

Why is Change Necessary?

This is one of the many questions that people ask, particularly if they are on the receiving end of a change initiative that they neither requested nor saw the need for in the first place.

A common misnomer about change is that it is often confined to underperforming businesses where suddenly the business is no longer performing to the level that it should be performing at. Therefore a new strategy is required to steer the ship into less choppy waters. In some instances, this may well be a trigger for change, but there are many others: 

These may include, in no particular order:

  • Competition
  • Technology
  • Desire for Growth 
  • Change in Legislation 
  • A need to improve processes

Example: Apple iPhone 7

An example of this is Apple and the iPhone headphone jack. They, controversially, decided to remove the headphone jack from their iPhone 7, which has not been welcomed by all.

Some change is initiated internally, known as ‘inside out change’, which is where an Organisation decides internally to do something that none of their competitors are doing. 

Yet interestingly, Apple have form here as a few years before they decided to change their charging port on the iPhone 5. It is fair to say that this decision was not met with universal approval, with the quote below being a typical example of the backlash they faced on social media.

“I am pretty annoyed that Apple changed the charging port on the new iPhone 5. Now all of my charging and docking stations are pretty much worthless and I have heard nothing but bad things about the adapter they make from the new lightening port to a 30pin dock.

"Anybody else having this issue or found a working solution? I hate carrying around tons of adapter cables. I feel like I am the fool for buying the newest apple products. I am now regretting supporting apple so much in this case.”

Within weeks however, most people had accepted the change and it would not be a surprise if the person who wrote this has also placed a pre-order for the new IPhone 7.

Other change is referred to as ‘outside in change’. This is typically in response to external factors, such as competition, regulatory changes or in some cases, a prediction of what may happen in the future that may have an impact on the Organisation.

Regardless of the trigger, it is not untypical for some stakeholders to be resistant to the change, which may in turn cause problems, causing conflict. Being aware of this will give you a better understanding of how to effectively manage conflict in these situations should they occur.

The Change Curve

A popular model that is often referred to is that of Kubler-Ross, The Change Curve, which is also known as the “5 stages of grief”. This model looks at the process that people tend to go through when going through a period of change, consisting of 5 stages,

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Tips on Dealing with the Effect of Change

By keeping a link to The Change Curve Model, we will look at the 5 Stages that Kubler-Ross highlight, and how you can manage these stages effectively when it relates to change to maintain morale and productivity levels in your business.

1. Dealing with Denial - Create Alignment

Often our first reaction to a new situation is that of denial. It is too much to take in, so we choose to avoid the reality.

An employee may have considered themselves comfortable with the current situation, and didn’t foresee any changes on the horizon. This may result in a feeling of shock.

As a manager it is important to remain consistent with your reasons and objectives behind the decisions, reassuring your employees and helping them to understand the thought processes that lead to the conclusion you have reached.

2. Dealing with Anger - Maximise Communication

When finally the gravity of the situation settles in, and reality becomes clear, the employee may begin to feel fear from what lies ahead, and this may also turn into anger and resentment. It is important to keep calm in these situations, in order to minimise chaos within your Organisation.

They may have been in a comfort zone and knowing that they need to learn, change and adapt may make them angry. This stage has to be managed very sensibly by management because some employees tend to vent their anger a little too harshly.

Remember that this is a natural reaction and with time, it will often pass away and make way for acceptance. It is essential to ensure that the communication lines remain open.

3. Dealing with Bargaining - Spark Motivation

Once employees have reached an understanding of the new situation, and how it will impact them you may find that some will attempt to adapt the change in a way that they are more comfortable with.

For example, if you are introducing a new system that will entail staff training you may experience resistance from employees who are not entirely on board with the changes. Persistence and patience will go a long way here, as will ensuring that any training or coaching is bespoke and relevant.

4. Dealing with Depression - Develop Capability

After a period of time that has left certain employees feeling out of their depth and resistant to the changes that are being enforced, you may find that when they realise that the changes are really happening, despite their refusal to accept them, they may reach of point of low motivation and morale.

This may be the point where they decide that staying with the Organisation is no longer an option, but often this happens during the “anger” phase, and if they have remained with you this far, it is only a matter of time before they will embrace the changes and accept the new situation.

Most people at this stage will recognise where they will fit in the new situation and how their new training will help. It is not unusual to experience a dip in productivity during this stage of the process.

5. Dealing with Acceptance - Share Knowledge

This is the goal!

When you reach this point, your employees will have accepted the new situation and in doing so, may be rejuvenated in their approach, morale and aspirations, recognising new opportunities and benefits. This is when you will see the positive results from the decision that you made. Encourage feedback and ideas at this stage. 

For more tips on how to effectively manage change or to arrange a confidential consultation about leadership training or any of our online management training courses, please call us on 01295 675506

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