Change Alignment … tougher than front wheel alignment!

Change Management ModelIn my post entitled Change … the Unfamiliar IS scary!, I illustrated the Change Model which consisted of three major phases of change. When we learn that changes are forthcoming we usually have two initial questions: what is the nature of the change and how will I cope. As a team leader, manager or business owner, provide an honest and specific rationale when you share the background for the change.

Try to anticipate your team’s reactions to the change so that you are prepared to answer their questions and explain how the change affects their roles and responsibilities. Don’t be reluctant to share important information so your team can get a crystal-clear picture of the situation and understand how they fit into it.

Your team is looking for leadership and a demonstration that you are confident that the change is needed and will improve the prospects for the business and by inference, for the team. Be direct, confident, and positive about the outcome of the changes. Provide an opportunity for your team to have a free flowing discussion about their concerns so that everyone can jointly develop solutions to overcome barriers and concerns. Given the opportunity, most teams will overcome any obstacles to implementing the change.

This may be an opportunity to empower you team even more. You could include more authority, resources, training, or removing real or perceived hurdles. The more people you can involve in implementing the change, the more successful the implementation will be.

Encourage your team to focus on what needs to be done and ensure them that they will have your support. Make it clear that your support does not remove their responsibility for implementing the change.

Now that the decision has been discussed and the team knows that the change is here to stay, we must move into the next phase. That phase is to ensure that your team is managing the change rather than the change managing the team. In the final analysis, adapting to change simply means using your knowledge, skills, and experience as tools to make the change work for you.

In a situation that involves change, encourage your team to view change as an opportunity to learn, develop and grow. While we do in fact learn from the past, we must also learn to let go of the past. The key reason is that the past process or technique that has been changed is not coming back. Allow the team to brainstorm ways to help implement the change, measure progress, make necessary adjustments, and enjoy the confidence of having your support and to finally celebrate their achievements.

Even small changes should have an implementation plan. Ask your team to develop a list of action steps that includes the date by which that action must be completed and the name of the team member(s) responsible. A resource list should be developed so that each team member knows who has the necessary knowledge and experience to handle that task.

Consider implementing the change in segments or phases if possible. This allows the team and you to make mid-course corrections if necessary. You can also schedule project meetings to give the team an opportunity to celebrate completed milestones and if necessary get “psyched up” for the next phase of the project. By implementing the change project in phases you allow most of your routines to remain stable and that tends to keep morale at a high level.

You also have an opportunity to remind your team of past successes and to focus on gains from the change. All team members should focus on what you can control and influence. They should not worry about things you can’t control. Each team member should seek opportunities for improvements, and new ways to overcome obstacles. The reality is that some expectations may need to be altered. You and your team members should also get enough sleep, exercise, and relax.

Use analogies and graphics to make your message more interesting. Ask people if what you’re saying or writing is clear and succinct. Be ready to listen and answer their questions.

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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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