How to Better Manage the Human Side of Change

How to Better Manage the Human Side of Change
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“Change” Has Changed
Over three-quarters of CEOs acknowledge that their organizations need reinvention to compete for customers and talent. But whereas change in the business arena used to be mostly confined to specific functions or geographies, change now is enterprise-wide and it looks quite different. In a business context, change now must involve all facets of the business, be well coordinated, happen fast, and effectively manage the human side of change.

Successful Change Requires A Focus on the Human Side of Change
Attention executives: to succeed at big, complex, and fast organizational change, you need to understand how to prioritize the human side of change. A focus on the implications of how change impacts those most affected is the first step in minimizing change resistance and engage people’s hearts and minds.

How to Better Manage the Human Side of Change
Here are some tips from change management simulation data and change management consulting experts on how to do it “right”:

  1. Get All Senior Executives On Board
    The change effort cannot be driven by the CEO alone. All leaders must be able to clearly articulate and stand behind a thoughtful business case for change.  That means visibly, actively, and consistently supporting the change, communicating the change, and being accountable for the desired results.
  2. Actively Involve Stakeholders
    The old ways to manage change focused simply on better change communications from leadership to employees. But the communications were top down with executives directly announcing change rather than involving employees early on in the process. And the results speak for themselves.  Bain recently reported that only 12% of change initiatives they surveyed achieved what the change programs set out to do. And over one-third failed miserably.

    To increase your odds, actively involve those most affected by change early and often in the vision, business case, and plans for change.  That is how you win the hearts and minds of those who matter most. 
  3. Have a Clear Change Vision
    Starting with leadership and cascading throughout everyone affected by change, the vision for change must be clear, compelling, and believable.  That includes sharing what the specific changes will look like and feel like in the future, why things will be better, and why the changes need to occur now.
  4. Agree Upon the Current Situation
    Almost every executive team that we work with is anxious to jump into designing the desired future state to get results faster.  They ask if they can skip anything having to do with the current state.  This is a mistake.   

    A current state analysis is required to have an accurate, systemic, and agreed-upon picture of how things truly get done compared to how leaders “think things get done.”  Employees emphatically tell us that skipping the current state analysis actually decreases the urgency for change,  increases confusion, and opens the floodgates for faulty assumptions, finger pointing, and misaligned workstreams that do not address true root causes.
  5. Invest in New Skills
    Invest in your employees’ (and thus your company’s) future by preparing them with the new skills they will need for the desired changes going forward. Research by Accenture found that upskilling your people as you undertake a transformation triples the value of the change initiative.

    Are you doing what it takes to instill the confidence and competence required to operate in the new ways?
  6. Ensure Cultural Alignment
    We define workplace culture as how work gets done along with the underlying attitudes, behaviors, and assumptions that accompany the work.  Your change initiatives must go through your people and your culture to be successfully executed.  As change unfolds, there will be new ways of working that require new ways of thinking and behaving.

    Be proactive in identifying and removing barriers to the new, desired behaviors. And remain vigilant to ensure that the company’s core values and beliefs are aligned with where you are headed.  A misaligned culture will derail any desired change effort.
  7. Monitor Progress and Adjust
    Keep track not only of the progress of the change effort, but also its effect on the human factors such as employee engagement, development, and support. If you know the stress points, you can adjust to accommodate them and improve your chances of success. The ultimate goal of a major transformation should include an enhanced employee experience.

    Are you tracking how people feel and visibly incorporating their feedback?

The Bottom Line
Before you take on the challenge of complex change, are you adequately considering how it will affect people? It will not fulfill your expectations unless you can work through the checklist above and fully manage the human side of change.

To learn more about how to better manage the human side of change, download The 5 Science-Backed Leadership Perspectives of Change that Matter Most

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