Original Post by Lisa Neuberger:
I know from personal experience how emotionally draining uncontrolled and unplanned change can be on an organization and its employees. In my last job, over the course of three years, my department experienced a complete reorganization which included downsizing several coworkers and firing the department leader. In addition, my team itself lost its long-tenured manager to the restructuring. Then a fellow teammate was promoted to manager, but decided he’d rather go back to his old job after being in leadership about one year. Next, an incompetent manager was hired and fired within six months. Finally, when I left my job, a new, and very competent-seeming manager had been brought it from outside the company. All of this occurred just before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the physical office closed down and everyone began working from home. The book presents six stages workers go through when confronted with change. These are denial, resistance, attitude trough, exploration, responsibility, and commitment. My team did a good job of to moving from denial to commitment. When you’re dealing with leadership change, you don’t have the luxury of wallowing in an attitude trough (Manning 2014, 430). To be successful, new leaders need the support and commitment of their teams from the start. If team members resist the change or are angry, worried, or resentful, the entire team will suffer.
I’ve also experienced other major changes in the workplace, such as new data management programs. These changes can be stressful, but manageable if they are handled the right way from the start. This means starting with a good reason for the change. If you can present a compelling argument for the change and show that it will truly benefit the organization, it’s easier to get people on board. For instance, if a software program the company uses is going to become obsolete in three years, you have no choice but to purchase and learn a new program. Next, put a human face on the change. Explain what the change means to you and to the individuals in your organization. Be sure to go slowly and involve the people affected by the change in the decision making. Appoint a champion of the change – someone who can effectively communicate, provide training, and usher in the changes. Paint an accurate picture of what the changes mean. Don’t rush things. Instead, track your progress and report on it. Finally, recognize people for their efforts and say thanks. (Manning 2014, 419).
Jason Clarke says it’s really important to warn people about what to expect during the change. People may be more afraid of the transition than the change itself. Maybe even provide a list of what isn’t changing along with a list of the negative and positive changes. This allows people to “calm down” (n.d., 9:20). He noted that our perception that people hate change is completely untrue. People actually want to experience positive, authentic change. People want what they do to mean something. When managing change, we need to keep those ideas in mind and make real cultural changes.
Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill
Clarke, Jason. n.d. “Embracing Change.” TEDxPerth. YouTube. Accessed November 1, 2021. Video, 18:03. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPhM8lxibSU
Great account of elements that would make the change to a new data management program successful. Having a good reason for the change is so crucial to gain commitment from the reports. It is a good opportunity for the leader to gain trust by being vulnerable. Reports would feel respected if they feel as though the leader is being transparent with insider information about the true reasons why the executives decided to make a given change. I could see one way to involve the people affected by the change in the decision making is asking them how they prefer to be trained in the new program.
Did you notice any of the obstacles that the leaders who brought in the new data management program faced? If so, how did they handle their challenges?
Reply by Lisa Neuberger:
Hi Mary –
Thanks for your response to my post! I can tell you that there were many obstacles the leaders at my former company faced when bringing in the new data management system. Mostly, the problems stemmed from pushback from long-tenured employees with a “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. Learning new technology can be challenging and it can make people very uncomfortable and even unhappy for awhile. The company tried very hard to train people to learn the new program, but nobody really accepts a new technology until they use it and become familiar with it. The company also assigned “super users” or champions to each floor, but in my opinion, they didn’t make these users visible enough to be effective. In the end, because the old program went away, everyone had no choice but to adopt the new program.