The framework of this post is a little different from those in the past because it relays a bit of personal experience as it relates to the topic of change management. I have always been a proponent of organizational change – I have encouraged it, I have promoted it, I have led teams through it, there is now an entire practice within our company that consults on it - you get the picture. Generally, I have always been seen as and prided myself on being a change agent.
I had an experience recently that held a mirror to my face as to how effectively I deal with change when it is more directly impacting personally than in an organizational construct. During a recent business trip, my beloved Blackberry “gave up the ghost”. Yes, I know it was two generations of technology behind, but it was familiar and as a business tool, it got the job done. So on the drive home from the client’s location, I had to stop and get a new phone. A device with FANTASTIC functionality that I had not a clue how to use! This was complicated by the fact that I was leaving on a flight the next morning for another trip and was going to be gone for the next five days, not a great time to be “disconnected”.
Needless to say, I was stressed. I was angry that my old phone had chosen then to “die”. I was concerned over the fact I didn’t know how to do anything on this new device and there was no easy way for me to get that knowledge quickly – heck, I didn’t even know how to turn it off on the plane! I HATED this thing!
Then I realized that my reaction to this change in my life was different than my normal “pro-change” response because I wasn’t driving or initiating it – it had been “done to me” and I did not know that it was going to happen, no time to prepare for it, and no control over stopping it or changing the course. Sound familiar??
This is exactly the stress, fear, and confusion that results in organizations when new initiatives are thrust upon the associates without the appropriate change management program. Fundamental to an effective change management program-or implementing any change in the way your team does its job-is the understanding that change produces uncertainty and our brains don’t like uncertainty. In fact, by nature humans crave certainty and the introduction of any ambiguity is seen as a threat. This can raise stress and anxiety which ultimately impacts performance.
To ensure uncertainty never becomes an element that must be combated, employees must be engaged throughout the process, beginning in the analysis phase. Gain buy-in at the top levels of the organization for the new accounts receivable system and set a clear, compelling vision that motivates and inspires people. Communicate that vision throughout the organization and ensure everyone knows how they fit into the big picture.
If I had been able to decide strategically the right time to migrate from my Blackberry to a new phone (which I was in the process of planning); had been a part of determining how that occurred and what I would need to be prepared for that move – do you think I would have handled that change more effectively?
During a major accounts receivable transformation, you are changing out people's “devices” just like I was changing my Blackberry to another phone. If those individuals are not aware of the plan and engaged in determining the path forward, the resulting implementation of the new solution will be fraught with stress, anger, and fear.
To avoid sending your organization into a productivity tail-spin, engage them early, set up continuous, open 2-way communication throughout the process that includes a timely feedback loop to answer questions and concerns.
Listen and respond to their concerns, otherwise those concerns will grow and multiply thereby creating more uncertainty, escalating the threat and strengthening resistance to your initiative. Give them clear direction and new “certainty” as to how to perform their role within the new platform, otherwise, you’re destined to have robust new accounts receivable management system with loads of functionality and the team will be saying, “ I HATE THIS THING!!
What concerns have you heard among your employees during an organizational change? How did you address them?