Thursday 21st March 12:36

Change Management: Selling Change

One of the hardest parts of managing change in an organisation is getting people to go along with you. It's often thought that, in any change, only 5% of people will support the change initially. That means you have to sell the change to a large number of other people if you want to succeed. Here are 3 things you need to do.

1. Be More Than a Manager, Be a Leader

Effective change requires a marriage between the best of management and the best of leadership. Managers will come from the organisational structure. Leaders can come from anywhere within the organisation.

Good management requires:
· defining the business case for change
· assessing how ready the systems are for change
· establishing a plan
· setting expectations, milestones, and targets
· managing the change as a project with timescales, costs, and outputs
· monitoring progress
· fire-fighting and overcoming crises.

Good leadership requires:
· winning hearts and minds
· engaging and connecting with people
· walking the talk.

2. Don't Use the C Word

The level of anger and fear at the prospect of change is always linked to how much people are committed to the status quo. This often links to how much people have invested in where they are now and their feelings of security and control.

Sometimes, people will react physically to the news of a change. The colour will leave their skin, their breath will become short, and they may need some kind of support as their legs begin to buckle. It is almost as if the ground has been taken away from them.

In the working situation, it is a good idea to avoid using the word, "change" when announcing a change. Instead, focus on the new behaviours that are needed and your confidence that people will acquire them. This focuses people's thoughts on their future identity and what they will gain rather than on their past identity and what they are going to lose.

3. Trust and Communication

When Robert Oppenheimer took over the Manhattan Project to develop the A-bomb in 1942, he found that the technicians responsible for the mathematical calculations were making an enormous amount of basic errors. So much so, that their work had to be double and triple checked by other teams.

Oppenheimer asked, "Why is this happening? Don't these people know that their work could shorten the war by years and save countless thousands of lives?". The Department of Defense told him that, for reasons of security, the mathematical team were not allowed to know the mission that they were working on.

Oppenheimer, however, insisted that despite the security implications, they should be told. When they were, the error rate disappeared overnight, as the teams realised the implications of their work.

We all fear change because change is uncertain. Only when we believe that there is more to be gained by investing in the new than in staying with the old will we start to change. In a time of rapid and unceasing change, that is the job of managers and leaders everywhere. 

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