Separate change management myths from realities.
Change is constant and as a result, people, teams and organizations must build their skills in managing change and fostering flexibility.
Given that today’s business context is in constant flux, the ability of an organization to change and adapt is an ongoing effort. Rather than a static process companies can get through and then move away from, it must be continuous and intentional. People who are flexible contribute to an organizational culture of adaptability, and this ability to shift and adjust must be developed for all employees and for teams—ultimately contributing to organizational capability.
Of course, you’ll need to start with a strong vision and business purpose for the change. In addition, you’ll need to engage employees. Done well, change management is a significant undertaking and requires investment. You’ll need to be aware of the myths that surround change management however—to avoid misdirecting your efforts or doing too many of the wrong things.
Change Management Myths
Here are five myths and realities to help you calibrate your change efforts.
Myth: Everyone gets a vote about the change. Reality: Give people a voice, not a vote.
When it’s effective, change management is the result of strategic decisions driven by and aligned with the mission and goals of the business. Based on the strategic nature of these decisions, it is important they are made at the leadership level. Engagement is key to getting people on board and motivated about the change, but this doesn’t mean everyone in the company gets a vote in the overall decision. People should have a voice, but decisions should be made by the people who have access to the greatest amount of information. For example, a top-tier senior sales person will have a perspective about a new customer relationship management system (CRM), but may not know the nuances of how the CRM system will contribute to the overall organizational strategy. While her contribution to the organization should be significantly valued, she shouldn’t necessarily have a vote that allows her to derail the decision to implement this critical new system. People need a voice in the change, but every change shouldn’t include the opportunity for a veto by those who aren’t in a position to understand the decision in context with the overall organizational strategy.
Myth: Change management is about selling people on the change. Reality: Engaging people is much more effective than telling them or selling them.
Change management is not about manipulating people or making something unpleasant sound snazzy. Be sure change management efforts provide honest information and engage people in a meaningful way. Don’t just sugar-coat something that is bitter to swallow. While telling people about the change in a command-and-control style or selling them on a flashy solution may save time at the beginning of the change, it will likely backfire and cost valuable time when people dig in their heels later on. It is more efficient and more effective to invest in efforts on the front end of change to engage people in the process and bring them along on the journey.
Myth: If people don’t love the new situation, change management has failed. Reality: No amount of perfect change management can correct for a bad decision, design or system.
Effective change management focuses on engaging people, involving them and motivating them about the future. However, the decisions about the shift or the ‘next state’ must be sound. For example, if you’re changing your workplace and haven’t created spaces where people can be productive or get their work done effectively, no change management effort will succeed in convincing them of its value. Or if you’ve implemented a new enterprise management system which doesn’t conform to the requirements of your business, even the best change management won’t build the adequate levels of acceptability among employees.
Myth: Good change management involves as many people as possible in as many activities as possible. Reality: More is better, but too much is too much.
Engagement is indeed key to successfully motivating people to change. However, implementing too many change activities can be overwhelming and introduce change fatigue. Change efforts must be a match to the type of change as well as the organization’s culture. If a change effort is comprehensive—changes to ways of working, systems and organizational structure—you’ll need to provide more support. However, if the change is less ambitious—perhaps simply a shift in a minor policy—less change management investment will be necessary. Employ the Goldilocks rule: Implement as much as necessary and as little as possible when it comes to change management activities. Plan for everything you want to do and then reduce your list to the ‘just right’ amount of engagement efforts. You can always add more later.
Myth: Change management is fluffy. Reality: Effective change management influences positive business results.
From greater business returns to reduced turnover, change management has real business implications. In fact, change management can help the business achieve results and capture returns based on involving and engaging people in the change so that they are able to adapt in a future that is constantly shifting.
In addition to motivating people to change and increasing the chances they’ll embrace the shifts you’re proposing, change is also critical to any company’s future. Organizations that build change muscle in their employees succeed because they have a workforce that is open and more willing to adapt to ongoing shifts in business. Engage people and give them a voice (not a vote) in changes. Make good decisions about change in the first place, and employ the “just right” amount of activities to support the change. Taking these actions will pay off not only for changes in the short term, but also for the development of the organization’s change muscle overall.