Breaking through barriers to change implementation | Daily News
Leading your flock into greener pastures – Part 27

Breaking through barriers to change implementation

Work on transforming the workplace culture on the basis of, “This is how we are going to lead and manage the team differently”. New ways of working into how the team works rather than allowing different ways of working styles.

Celebrating people past and present

Focusing on the future and how you want things to be when making a workplace change is quite natural. After all, you’re interested in the improvements or benefits you want to achieve and your attention is likely to be on how you want your staff to behave, for example: the new things you want them to do, the skills you need them to have, how you want them to act and behave differently.

Be careful, however, that you don’t focus so much on the future that you forget to think about the past and present. Recognise the contributions that people have made in the past, and the contributions that they continue to make to the performance of the team or department, because otherwise you may unintentionally cause people to feel unappreciated or undervalued.

Clarifying the start and end points

The extent of the change you introduce into the workplace - and the accompanying transformation in culture - can be small or huge. Your change may involve a small team altering a specific work procedure or a whole organisational change involving the transformation of the entire culture of the workforce. Whatever the size of the change, however, your approach to clarifying the start and end points is roughly the same: the main variable is the number of people affected by, and potentially involved in making, the change.

In the following two lists, we suggest questions you may want to ask to clarify the start and end points for your change. Clarify the start point by conducting an analysis of the current situation by asking questions such as the following:

What is the current level of performance regarding this process (or system)? Examine quantitative (numeric) and collect qualitative (anecdotal) information about the effectiveness of the relevant process or system from people using or affected by it.

How is this process currently being carried out? Involve members of your team in drawing a process map that describes each step in the process, and identify any bottlenecks, failures and so on in the process, and the reasons for them.

What are people’s attitudes towards this process (or system)? How much importance do they place on complying with it? People may not follow a process if they don’t understand the reasons for and benefits of it, or indeed the consequences of not complying with it.

What is it about this process (or system) that makes life easy or difficult for people? In my experience, most people tend to follow processes that are easy rather than difficult - and take shortcuts to make life easier for them!

What is it that people like or dislike about the process (or system)?

Use the responses you receive to these and other relevant questions to gather information to help you thoroughly understand the practical and cultural issues regarding the situation or problem that you and your team are experiencing.

Here are a few questions you can ask to clarify the end point of your proposed change:

What about the current process (or system) is valued and needs to be maintained?

What are the improvements in performance or outcomes that I want to achieve with regard to this process (or system)? (You can discover how to be ‘SMART’ when clarifying improvements later.)

What is the new process (or system) going to look like when working effectively? How is it to operate, and how is it going to change what people do or how they work?

What, if anything, needs to be different regarding people’s attitude towards, or the value or importance they place on, the process (or system)?

What will be being achieved that’s not currently being achieved by the process (or system)?

Use the answers to the above questions to produce a specification of the new process or system and a description of the attitudes, values and behaviours that you want to establish with regard to it.

Always ask the people affected for their views, hopes and concerns when you’re addressing the points in these lists. That way, they can let you know their concerns, and you can get them involved in design and implementation; and you also always get more ownership and buy-in when you do it. Such dialogue will reinforce people’s perceptions of your capabilities and interest in them.

Asking and answering the above and other relevant questions helps to involve your team in making the change happen because it: (a) Enables you to access their knowledge, experience and expertise with regard to the process you’re considering changing. (b) Makes them feel valued (you sought their views and opinions). (c) Helps them to take ownership of, and be more committed to, making the change happen effectively (they contributed to and shaped the new process).

Bridging the gap between old and new

When you’ve clarified the start and end points of your proposed change (as we describe in the preceding section), you find that you’ve established the gap that exists between:

The current process or way of working and the proposed process.

The existing and the required attitudes, behaviours and values of people with regard to that process.

To bridge these gaps, you need to produce and implement an action plan that addresses the practical and cultural aspects of your change.

Make sure that this action plan describes each of the actions or steps that are to be taken to bridge the gap, the deadline for each action to be completed and the name of the person to be held accountable for ensuring that the action is taken.

Consider questions such as those listed below when producing your plan:

What are the various options for bridging the gap?

What actions need to be taken, and in what order, to bridge the gap?

What criteria am I going to use to measure or evaluate whether the change has been successful (criteria may include numeric and anecdotal evidence)?

Which options or actions best meet the success criteria?

How acceptable are the proposed actions going to be to the people affected?

What can go wrong regarding making the change, and how can I recognise early signs of failure?

How am I going to ensure that the change is maintained?

Facing resistance

Adopting approaches for minimising resistance to change

This section takes a look at some of the problems and objections that may follow your decision to implement a workplace change. However good your preparation and planning, you can still experience problems if you don’t dive deep enough to uncover people’s objections.

Choosing the right pace for change

When you’ve decided that a new process or system needs to be introduced, make sure that you think carefully about the best pace to use to implement that change in order to gain your staff’s commitment to making and sustaining it.

You can make the correct decision about the need to make a change, only to find that your staff don’t embrace it (or even reject it) because you’re introducing the change too quickly for their liking. They need time to come to terms with how the change affects them. On the other hand, you can also take too much time to make a decision and introduce a change, thus causing members of your team to experience unnecessary, prolonged anxiety about the possible changes that may be coming their way.

Uncovering people’s objections

People differ in how willing they are to discuss their concerns about a proposed change. Some people are keen to let you know about their objections, whereas others are likely to be more reluctant to speak up. You need to appreciate this reluctance if you want to uncover (and therefore address) all their worries. People’s reticence can be due to the following fears:

(1) Sharing their objections with you in a group situation, because they feel embarrassed about colleagues knowing about their objection to a proposed change.

(11) Revealing an objection that’s particularly important to them;

A a leader, you may find that that some people share their most important objection last with you. So, be prepared to keep asking ‘... and what else is concerning or worrying you about the proposed change?’, to uncover all the objections that a person may have regarding a proposed change.

Answering resistance

Adopt slightly different approaches to getting buy-in from people, depending upon the extent to which individuals accept or resist the change:

The enthusiastic. Harness the enthusiasm of people who want the change to happen, perhaps by making them responsible for a specific task. The ambivalent. Reinforce the benefits and explain the consequences of not making the proposed change to those who are neither enthusiastic nor pessimistic. Detail how progress is to be monitored and evaluated.

The resistant. Listen carefully to, and address the concerns of, people who are resisting the proposed change. (We will discuss in next instalment ‘Handling resistance to change’ to find out how to work with these particular members of staff.)

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 35 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a business consultant, freelance newspaper columnist and a writer.)

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