Change Management - Five key points for leaders
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Change Management


(from Change Management)

When leaders or managers are planning to manage change, there are five key principles that need to be kept in mind:

Principle ONE

Different people react differently to change

The following diagram represents a spectrum of change:

Stability - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Change

Different people have different preferences for where they like to be on this spectrum. Some people like to be at the STABILITYend of the spectrum - they like things to be the way they have always been. Other people like to be at the CHANGE end of the spectrum - they are always looking for something different and new.

Problems arise when the individual's preferences differ from the situation they find themselves in. That is, if:

In these situations, the individuals involved can experience: People tend to resist, therefore, approaches on other parts of the spectrum than where they themselves prefer to be.

Principle TWO

Everyone has fundamental needs that have to be met

A famous psychologist called Will Schutz identified three basic needs that people have in interpersonal relations. These basic needs are also of fundamental importance in people's reaction to change: Whilst the need for these can vary between people, in any change process there is always some degree of need for control over one's environment/destiny, some degree of need to be included in the process of forming the change that is taking place, and some degree of need for managers/leaders to be open with their information.

If a change programme fails to meet the control, inclusion and openness needs of the individuals affected by it then that programme is likely to encounter a range of negative reactions, ranging from ambivalence through resistance to outright opposition.

Principle THREE

Change often involves a loss, and people go through the "loss curve"

The relevance of the "loss curve" to a change management programme depends on the nature and extent of the loss. If someone is promoted to a more senior position, the 'loss' of the former position is rarely an issue because it has been replaced by something better. But if someone is made redundant with little prospect of getting a new job, there are many losses (income, security, working relationships) that can have a devastating effect.

There are many variations of the "loss curve". One is known as "Sarah" - that is, the individual experiences (in this order): Change Management loss curve

The common factors amongst all "loss curves" are:
  1. that there can be an initial period where the change does not sink in. For example, feelings may be kept high by the individual convincing themselves that the change is not going to happen.
  2. that when the loss is realised, the individual hits a deep low. The depth of this 'low' is deepened if the loss is sudden/unexpected.
  3. that the period of adjustment to the new situation can be very uncomfortable and take a long time. In the case of bereavement, the period of adjustment can be as long as two years.

Principle FOUR

Expectations need to be managed realistically

The relationship between expectations and reality is very important. You can see this in customer relations - if a supplier fails to meet expectations then the customer is unhappy; if the supplier exceeds expectations then the customer is happy.

To some extent the same principle applies to staff and change. If their expectations are not met, they are unhappy. If their expectations are exceeded, they are happy.

Sometimes, enforced change (eg: redundancies) inevitably involve the failure to meet expectations: there had been an expectation of job security, which has now been taken away.

What leaders/managers have to do, however, is make sure they don't pour petrol on the fire by making promises that can not or will not be kept. Expectations have to be set at a realistic level, and then exceeded (eg: in terms of the degree of outplacement support that will be provided).

Principle FIVE

Fears have to be dealt with

In times of significant change rational thought goes out of the window. This means that people often fear the worst - in fact, they fear far more than the worst, because their subconscious minds suddenly become illogical and see irrational consequences. Eg: Such fears need to be addressed, eg by helping people to recognise that most people who are made redundant find a better job with better pay and have a huge lump sum in their pocket! Or, where appropriate, by explaining how the reductions in staff numbers are going to be achieved (by natural wastage or voluntary redundancy).

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