Talk about ‘change’ and people suck in a big deep breath and close their eyes. There’s an assumption its hard, complicated and takes a whole lot more energy than leaving things just as they are. It’s time we thought differently about change.
Change …transformation, growth, transition …call it what you will, is a fundamental part of every organisation we step into and impacts us as individuals.
Right now, COVID-19 has seen a huge change, albeit a ‘forced’ change, that we’ve shared across the globe. Next to it, is a massive global movement to rethink, reshape and reform racial equality across the world.
Whether we embrace the changes with optimism and add our own energy or feel a huge anxiety about our ability to keep up, catch up or be left behind, these changes are real. They’re happening now!
We call this the mwah. model for change, but even without the model and tools, there’s some simple ideas and tips that help us. There are three main areas of focus – Building understanding and receptivity, Supporting the team, and Managing the change . Amongst this crazy moment in time, we thought we’d share our best ideas to get you and your business ready for change, dealing with change, and not just surviving but thriving in change. We hope they’re helpful in the most practical way possible.
Start with building receptivity. Increase understanding of the change and options available, so people become more interested in engaging.
Have conversations about the ‘why’.
Formulate a clear, compelling ‘why’. Provide the purpose then everyone can clearly understand and appreciate how this could be good, or essential, for your organisation.
Know who can help and who people will listen to
Look at your team and find your champions. They should be credible, honest and trusted.
Clear processes, tools and a common language
Creating a clear communication process and common language is vital to ensure clarity. Look at your communication tools and identify the ways you will use these to communicate about the change clearly and as broadly and inclusively as possible.
Supporting the team
As you build receptivity, concurrently start supporting the team.
Take time to consider the potential reactions to the change you might encounter. Have a look at the extreme reactions and how you might respond to these. Embrace change with confidence and curiosity – be involved. Your confidence, openness and honesty will be contagious.
No matter how great our plans are, none of us know everything about our business, there are always some contexts that are unique. Take time to consider these, keep an open mind and don’t assume. Consider unique solutions that might assist those with unique issues.
Acknowledge the downside
Change, and the energy it needs, requires resilience. It has an impact on our wellbeing – positive for some and negative for others – but always taking energy. It is up to us to ensure that the impact is managed while building up receptivity to the change. In an ideal world every employee would see change as a growth opportunity, but don’t assume that for everyone, and be ready to support people through. Plan feedback loops and use them – keeping them open and active long into the change.
Keep asking and keep listening for feedback.
Managing the Change
Now that you’ve got receptivity to change running and you’re actively supporting the team, it’s time to start seriously managing the change.
Develop a clear plan with expectations and accountability, to support everyone to get through this in good shape. Don’t forget to include measurement. When you’re ready to ask ‘How did we go?’ you want to have data points to answer that very question.
Open, honest, two-way communication is essential! As much as possible to as many as possible. We have a saying “we all love the change we control and hate the one we don’t”. Communicating to everyone, as often as possible, is about ensuring people can play a role, be involved, and feel they own it.
Your communication plan is not a ‘set and forget’ document. Ensure it is a living, breathing, agile thing that you constantly refine and use along the journey.
Develop a Good Contingency Plan
Long before you need it – have a Contingency Plan. Nothing ever fully goes to plan, so be ready. One of the biggest learnings from COVID-19 is to ensure you have that contingency plan ready to go!
Monitor, Measure and Tweak
Keep an eye on the planned resources, accountabilities and what you are delivering. Communicate your progress – people need to see how you are tracking. And if something isn’t working quite as well as intended, don’t be scared to tweak and adjust the plan.
This last piece is an often-neglected part of the change. We finish the change and disperse on to other important work, but this is SO important to do well.
Thank people for supporting the change. Tell people you appreciate their efforts.
Consider getting people together to celebrate the changes made. Chat to people who have been impacted by the change. Check in on how are they feeling now?
It is also important to re-energise – start to note lessons – good ones and painful ones – and normalise the change alongside the other things people love about their job and the business. Make it part of Business As Usual (BAU).
We don’t mean to make change sound easy, but we certainly mean to make it easier than it sometimes feels. Move to think differently about change – from the ‘change will exhaust us’ to ‘change is normal part of living’.
When it feels hard and complex, break it down, use this simple structure and you will be ready to make those changes confidently and capably.
We wish you well!