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Blueprint for Change
Marilyn Manning, Ph.D.

A Blueprint for Change:
Just when things seem working well, you have to do more with less, faster, cheaper and better.

Change can be viewed as either an opportunity or a threat. Unfortunately, most organizations undergo significant change when faced with a crisis, rather than using change as a vehicle for continuous improvement and innovation. Leaders often ignore problems until some of the talented people are leaving, or when absenteeism or complaints and grievances increase.

When an organization doesn’t recognize some of the crisis mode behaviors, there are usually obvious indicators of increased stress and a decline in morale, trust, enthusiasm, and participation. Initial attempts to correct the situation may be a proliferation of task forces and committees, but these generally mask the more serious problems. The organization probably needs an in depth assessment and a sound plan for implementing positive change.

When change is not well planned, an organization can end up in a maintenance or defensive cycle. Most employees view change as a threat and become defensive, reacting with a range of behaviors from yelling and blaming to avoidance and justification.

On the other hand, when change is well planned and implemented, the organization can function in a growth cycle. Individuals shift their attitude to embrace change as an opportunity for innovation and problem-solving. Their behaviors become constructive and productive when leaders articulate a clear and beneficial vision for the change. It is important to acknowledge and process any resistance. Communicate the benefits quickly. And, provide adequate resources to make change successful.

Leaders need to help employees overcome fears. The most common fears are the fear of loss of identity, loss of control, loss of meaning, loss of belonging and loss of a future. These are pretty basic human needs and when any of these are threatened, people will resist and lapse into defensive behavioral patterns.

In Deming’s Fourteen Points for Quality, number eight says: “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” Don’t give it lip service, but acknowledge the importance of facing and discussing fears. When management can accept that fear and change usually go hand in hand, the undiscussables can be discussed. Consider using outside facilitators who are very experienced in change management and team building to facilitate this part of the process. Allowing staff to freely express their fears and anxieties in a safe environment is an important step.

After facilitating organizational change for city, state and federal government agencies as well as profit companies, our clients report that the following blueprint for Change is essential in the early stages of undergoing major change.

STEP ONE: ESTABLISHING THE NEED AND THE BENEFITS

Most organizations report that they undergo a thorough organizational assessment to determine what changes are potentially most beneficial. They assess customer satisfaction, internal morale and structure, productivity and efficiency levels. They carefully weigh their options, assessing advantages and the downside. They look to other successful organizations for bench marking. Once they identify the major changes, they carefully assess resources. Who will be the various internal champions for various stages of the change? What money is designated for needed training and implementation? What type of outside experts will be needed to guide the process, train and guide the implementation and evaluation stages? Is there adequate budget?

STEP TWO: LEADERSHIP READINESS

Organizations need to thoroughly prepare their leaders and obtain their commitment up front. It is suggested to hold a few off-site facilitated meetings where leaders can “get on the same page” and be coached in effective ways to communicate the new direction to employees.

Hold a kick-off celebration management meeting. Top leadership should articulate the clear and exciting vision for change. Map out the process, the timelines, the champions, and the benefits. Review past successes and learnings. What changes have worked well and why? Which have failed and why? Give people ample time to talk about resistance and fear that they may have as well as what they expect from staff.

Provide management with training. Building skills in change management, managing conflict, team building and coaching, is essential. Plan to have management skill building sessions throughout the process.

Many organizations have invested vast amounts of money in new technology and quality or re-engineering programs and report little success. Leadership was not trained or ready. When significant change is implemented, weak management practices surface like wild fire. Invest in your leadership and their people skills. After all, people will either resist and sabotage the change or get on board and be your champions.

STEP THREE: MISSION, VISION, GOAL CLARITY

Research supports that mission-driven organizations are more efficient and productive than rule-driven groups. Reexamine and revise your mission, vision and goals. If management is not well trained in strategic planning, get up to speed and take the planning process down into all levels of the company. Get full participation and buy-in. A well written strategic plan should include clear goals for each step of any major change. Again, as the change preparedness process penetrates throughout the organization, front line staff must be sincerely listened and responded to. Token input and lip service to this process are sure to encourage resistance, sabotage, and low morale.

STEP FOUR: FORMAL COMMUNICATION

The initial formal communication forum is a regular management team meeting throughout the change process. The size of the organization will determine how many teams need to be set up. Consistent meeting management should be adhered to. Again, training or coaching may be desirable. Everyone in the organization should be clear about accepted meeting ground rules and procedures. People will greatly benefit from facilitation training which helps to empower more individuals.

Each department should hold “All hands meetings” at least quarterly. This is an opportunity to keep everyone informed, to celebrate successes, to offer some skill building, and to hold open dialog. No one likes surprises. Ask for lots of group input and demonstrate direct actions and follow-up from this. Some organizations create an internal newsletter which publicizes updates, benchmarks, and successes.
Everyone throughout the organization should have some formal communication link. People need to feel that there is an appropriate place to ask questions, express concerns, and deal with fears and anxieties as they arise. Well planned change has positive benefits for the entire organization.

Marilyn Manning, Ph.D., CMC, CSP, has an organizational consulting, training and speaking business specializing in strategic planning, change and conflict management and team-building.
Call (650)965-3663; M@MManning.com; www.MManning.com; 945 Mountain View Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040. fax 650 965-3668.


About the Author

Marilyn Manning, Ph.D., CMC, CSP, has an organizational consulting, training and speaking business specializing in strategic planning, change and conflict management and team-building.
Call (650)965-3663; M@MManning.com; www.MManning.com; 945 Mountain View Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040. fax 650 965-3668.


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