When you find yourself responsible for managing a change project at work, you might wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. It quickly becomes clear that the task is not as simple as letting people know what they should do and then standing back to let it happen, especially when you don’t have authority among those who need to change. Influencing change across even a subset of an organization takes a deliberate and continual effort by the individual or team that is trying to make it happen.
Whether the change was your idea or you’ve been delegated the task of implementing it, one of the first things to do is define the change. To determine what needs to be done to implement the change, first understand the current state of the organization and what the organization will look like when the project has been implemented. Figure out what is expected to change, and then dig deeper to determine the invisible elements, like attitudes and culture, that really need to change in order to sustain the end result.
The change initiative will ultimately be successful when employees change the way they work in a way that drives the results the organization is trying to achieve. As a change manager, you develop programs, tools, and systems to help drive that change. You find ways to communicate the sense of urgency, the inspiring vision, and the “What’s In It For Me,” to motivate action. When you invite people to participate in the effort and involve them in developing the change in their own area, you then let people feel like the change is theirs to implement. Share in the achievement, and let people take ownership by engaging them as early as possible in the change process.
Converting managers in your organization into leaders of change is crucial to your project’s success. Unfortunately, not all managers understand how to adequately support change. To that end, clearly define the role that different managers must play in order to lead change within their areas of authority. Supply them with project-specific tools, training and feedback to enable them to lead. Provide the means for leaders to support each other in the change effort and to align themselves across the organization.
Even with the best of engagement practices, some people will seem to dig in their heels against change: some people won’t participate, some will do so grudgingly, and others will exhibit behaviors you didn’t expect. Once you uncover the underlying reasons for this resistance, most of them are valid, or at least understandable. As a change manager, your responsibility is to anticipate the potential sources of resistance so you can work to mitigate them in advance, and then to reduce resistance once it inevitably happens. Start by listening. Instead of blaming people for their resistant behavior, seek to understand their experience of the change. Rather than try to overcome resistance, help people deal with their reaction and work through it so they can make the transition in a constructive way. Be willing to change your approach if it’s creating too much disruption.
Since change projects have lots of moving parts to coordinate, change managers are also project managers. Keep track of timelines, and monitor activities for dependencies and resource constraints. Measure progress against goals, set checkpoints, and take action to keep up momentum. Assign tasks and due dates, and ensure the accountability of those who commit to them. Plan meetings in advance and facilitate them so they successfully drive change forward. Manage all the nuts and bolts to keep your change project on track.
To effectively manage change, take on these key responsibilities and hold yourself accountable for doing them well. Doing so will help ensure that not only your change project succeeds, but that you become a successful change manager.
Looking for a resource to help you fulfill these responsibilities? Get practical tools, tips and templates in the Influence Change at Work Toolkit.