The 4 C’s of Effective Change Management
Why do organisations need to change? Organisations are fluid and impacted by both internal and external factors. Not managing changes effectively can be devastating and long-lasting, so it’s important to understand the potential issues and equip ourselves with techniques to support change-management initiatives, especially in the do-good space.
Factors for change
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development identifies the following factors that impact upon change, and while not all of these may cross over to the do-good sector, when you tweak some of them to “not-for-profit” lingo, they do.
An organisation may need to adapt in order to respond to some or all of these factors::
- challenges of growth
- economic downturns and tougher conditions (or lack of funding)
- changes in strategy (or need)
- technological changes
- competitive pressures, like mergers, or collaborations
- customer (donor or funder) pressure
- learning new organisation behaviours and skills
- government legislation/initiatives.
At a very basic level, change in an organisation should generally occur in order to improve and future-proof the workplace so it can continue to operate.
The word change can strike fear into many employees and often for good reason. It can appear to be synonymous with uncertainty, restructures or even redundancy. Change processes that are poorly planned, executed and delivered can have the opposite effect to that intended.
Not managing change processes effectively can be highly damaging to an organisation in a number of ways in terms of:
- employee morale
- its culture or ‘brand’ both internally and externally (poor public perception is not ideal for a not-for-profit that relies on its reputation for donations or government funding).
- productivity/service provision.
As an HR practitioner with over 20 years in the field, I have both observed and been involved in a number of change processes and there are some key things that make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful process. Aside from ensuring compliance with the relevant legislation –changes should align with both the organisational strategy and a culture that supports this. Here are the 4 C’s to support Effective Change Managment.
Include necessary parties (staff, union and whanau for instance) in discussions. This runs deeper than paying lip service to the input of those impacted but should be authentic consultation where you take feedback and suggestions on board if at all possible/practicable to so. Those currently working in a field can be best placed to offer valuable suggestions about how things could be done differently/better moving forward and why certain organisational changes may not be appropriate or translate well at an operational level.
This will help to create a more innovative change process (parties may come up with new ways of working, or hybrids of current practices that could be explored). Consultation and a platform to enable feedback to be provided gives the benefit of the hands-on input of those affected. This can enable staff to be active contributors to the process, rather than feeling it is something happening ‘to’ them.
This can have the added benefit of creating change agents. Individuals who understand and support the reason and process of change can advocate for it with their peers.
It is essential to identify and acknowledge people’s feelings around the changes occurring. This can both inform current and future approaches to the management of change as well as enable those affected, to be heard. Many organisations provide free and independent Employee Assistance including Counselling sessions for impacted staff during periods of change.
Whilst it can be quite labour intensive, compiling comments and feedback and identifying emerging themes from feedback received is definitely time well spent. Going through this process and then feeding back to those involved can often help to spell out the reasons behind the change, to identify key areas of both support and resistance or where further discussions may be required.
Allow a forum for individuals to comment both face-to-face and in writing anonymously (some individuals may be reticent to voice their true opinions in a group setting due to the fear of being drowned out by loudest voice, fear of ruining working or personal relationships).
This will ensure all those involved have the opportunity to comment and have anything they are unsure of explained to them.
Follow through on commitments made – if you tell staff you will give them feedback or a decision by a certain time/date then do so, or keep them updated with specific reasons as to why not. This will help to maintain the trust of individual staff in the process and ultimately with the final decisions made.
Change processes can sometimes seem to take an excessive amount of time, however, it is important to balance enough time for those involved to have their say and be heard, to respond to and incorporate any feedback, and at the same time keep the process moving forward.
There will always be individuals who are more resilient and more engaged in the process and conversely there will be those who may be highly resistant either initially or throughout the process. Having a fair, methodical, timely process to manage change can at least ensure all those involved are treated in the most respectful manner with the opportunity to partake in the process.
This should start before any process commences. Organisations need to communicate regularly and consistently on progress (including face-to-face).
This is probably the key most important part of a change, particularly once the process is underway. This can prevent rumours and hearsay that could potentially derail or make the process significantly more challenging for all involved.
Whilst some matters may be confidential and cannot be shared – where information can be shared with staff, this should be a priority.
Information can be shared to communicate with those affected by any change process – whether that just means a change in reporting line, or more significantly may affect their role within an organisation. This can go a long way towards ameliorating negative feelings around the process and its potential outcomes
Continue to communicate once the official process has concluded. Particularly if you can give updates on the positive impacts of the change. If change has involved the loss of job roles, even those remaining will need ongoing communication. They may be mourning the loss of colleagues, adapting to new team members as well as to role changes.
Utilising an independent change expert to manage the process can also make the process more effective. Any independent advisor should be aligned with the organisation goals and culture, have a solid understanding of the workplace and the reasons behind the change.
Keeping the above in mind should help to make the process as smooth and successful as possible for all involved.