Change with Confidence provides a detailed toolkit for leaders charged with heading up major change initiatives. Drawing on his own experience, Phil Buckley discusses the various stages that are common to change projects, spelling out essential steps to be taken and pitfalls to be avoided. Understanding team members’ needs, communicating with them effectively, providing the support they need throughout the process, and managing relationships with key “stakeholders” are what will make change initiatives succeed. Buckley provides a useful resource for those tasked with the daunting challenge of implementing significant organizational change.
PART I: FIGURING IT OUT
Change initiatives involve changing how people behave in the workplace. To overcome the inevitable resistance, project leaders must first consider how those coworkers are operating now, what specific changes are needed, and how hard it will be to achieve them.
Significant change projects can be daunting, particularly to the person assigned to lead them. To help keep the inevitable fears at bay, change leaders should begin by considering what assets they have that will prove useful, such as connections with colleagues and demonstrated skills.
Big changes have far-reaching effects on both the people involved and the tools they use. Leaders must consider their organizations’ unwritten behavioral “rules” that could create obstacles. Organizational history provides valuable clues on how the current project may be viewed. If other change attempts have failed, it is essential to understand why. Coworkers and written records can provide useful perspectives. Failure to realistically assess what it will take to achieve success could undermine the project and negatively impact leaders’ careers. Leaders must also consider what other projects are competing for resources and organizational support. Perhaps staff can be shared or schedules adjusted to minimize “traffic jams.”
The project head must identify key people who can advance or impede the undertaking and understand those individuals’ personal agendas.
In addition to upper management, the team leader must also win over the employees who will be most affected by the change. Companies often launch too many simultaneous efforts and fail to see them through; this creates negative expectations. Strong communication helps combat this tendency. All affected parties should be consulted and included from the start, and inaccurate perceptions must be corrected promptly.
Failure to understand existing conditions before agreeing to performance targets can be disastrous. Big changes are stressful for both the project team and coworkers who must assume additional responsibilities. Top management’s degree of commitment, the project’s fit with overall organizational goals, and the change team’s experience level must be considered. It is essential to specify how progress will be gauged at the outset. The project head should recommend metrics aligned with the company’s overall goals and avoid measurements that can be skewed by outside forces.
Every business has its own “myths” that must be taken into account. Projects based on assumptions rather than facts will probably fail. Leaders must look past those organizational beliefs to consider what the change is supposed to accomplish and whether there are other, simpler options.
Management often expands change assignments without allocating additional time or resources. This is known as “scope creep,” since the scope of the project has increased from its original position. Once project leaders agree to the increase in scope, they will be held to those more demanding standards.