Avoid Change Pains … without seeing a doctor!

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.”

Avoid The Pain of ChangeInitiating a new order of things is difficult to do and is merely the first step. Change is not a discrete event, which once initiated, can be finished. It is a continuous process always evolving and moving toward something different.

Business, education, nonprofit organizations, and even governments have come to recognize that success and competitiveness constantly require new approaches. As each new focus energizes an enterprise, it helps improve the bottom line and the productivity of that organization. Each new focus also requires that roles, responsibilities, and working relationships be adjusted and renegotiated.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines change as, “to make different in some particular way or to make radically different, to replace with another, to undergo a modification, to become different or to undergo transformation, transition, or substitution.” Irrespective of your industry, profession or geography, you can probably relate to at least one of these definitions of change. Another factor is that these changes do not have to be huge to have a monumental impact on you as an individual or the entire organization.

The challenge is to adapt to changes, but not in an authoritarian fashion. Team members must be given the proper conditions and environment that allow risk taking and sharing of experiences.

Check the practices you already use or plan to use to address change. As a team leader you must be able to explain the reasons why change is happening, how it will help the organization move closer to its vision and how everyone will benefit from it. You can simply gather and share all of the accurate information that you can assemble. If you think a change might be coming, assemble information that might tell you more about what it would mean. Then communicate directly with the people who might be affected by the change. It is important to listen to their concerns and try to address them.

You must expect and anticipate that people approach change differently. You will need to be empathetic and sensitive because you must help them to adapt in their own way, rather than convince them that their feelings are not justified. You can anticipate that various barriers will arise.

Be prepared to fully and carefully explain why the change is happening and to offer suggestions that will make it happen more smoothly. Of course you are not expected to handle all of this alone. Enlist the support of as many others as possible. This support does not necessarily mean that only senior management or leadership is capable of helping. Involve various people in the organization to help you develop and implement ideas and suggestions.

Another issue that arises in any change issue is the timing and effective date of the change. Let people know ahead of time about the impending change. During the implementation provide appropriate training, support, resources and encouragement. One last suggestion is to lead by example and model behaviors that others are being asked to show. Assume that you must demonstrate a positive attitude, openness and involvement.

Phases of Change
A change occurs and sets a cycle in motion. In some circles the emergence of a change is viewed as a fourth phase of the change process. However, you do not go into action until you become aware of a change. Therefore, I see three steps for you to navigate and progress through.

The Unfamiliar phase begins with the new rules are new. Everyone feels some confusion and concern. Everyone makes mistakes. The road to success is bumpy. During the Alignment phase, you and your group continue to learn and everyone becomes familiar with the change and how to implement it. Finally, during Normalization, people are making adjustment is almost complete and the change has become part of the daily routine. Your people are accustomed to doing things differently or at least are resigned to the change.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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