Change Management: It’s Not about Small Coins Anymore

During my consulting work with Re/Max, the David Suzuki Foundation, Second Wave Sports, and North Shore Disability, to lighten a tense work environment, I would sometimes wear the  nametag, “Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Change Manager.” It was a quick way to make some extra coin (no pun intended). But really, as the title of this article indicates, change management is not about small coins anymore. Businesses small and large have discovered that properly managing change – from the establishment of new practices to the installation of new management – can mean big savings.

Let’s take a moment and define the relevant term.

Change Management: Transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state.

As the definition suggests, the concept of change management can be applied from the small – hiring a new employee – to the large – major organizational restructuring. From an executive development perspective, we use change management to mitigate problems brought about by the succession of leadership.

Regardless of the application, successful change is dependant on a company’s ability to gain the support of its employees. From new break room procedures to the development of a new product line, without employee support, such efforts would be dead in the water. Once all are onboard, change management progresses through four distinct steps:

1) Identify how the changes will impact the broader business environment.

It goes without saying that some effort should be dedicated to determining both the need for change and the capability to change. What are the goals these changes will bring about? Are the desired changes too drastic at this time? Is this type of change possible? Are there other changes we can make that will not be so invasive? How will a change over here effect operations over there? These and other questions should be addressed in a Change Management plan.

2) Develop adjustments that suit the company’s needs.

Once we’ve identified the results we desire and answered a whole host of questions (see above), we can outline the changes we need to make to reach the agreed-upon goals. Again, it goes without saying that these goals should benefit the company in some way – or serve to move the company towards those benefits.

3) Train the employees to implement the changes.

Maybe it’s something as minor as wearing nametags (remember Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Change Manager?) so all employees can get to know each other. Whatever the change, training will be required.

4) Reinforce the necessity of the change.

Change is difficult. Resistance will occur; even at this late stage in the game. Individuals or departments that were initially on-board will suddenly start to grumble. This is when it becomes incumbent on management (or the executive development professional) to reinforce the need for said change. Get everyone back on track and the change can proceed unabated.

In the above examples, we were using changes to employee practices as the focus of our four steps. We could very easily have shifted focus to an upcoming change to a board of directors. And while this doesn’t really require the support of the employees, it does require the support of those on said board. The four steps would then be applied to the board as a group of individuals – identify, develop, train, and reinforce with board members in mind. Similar action could be taken to apply these four steps to an organizational change that requires the support of the public – identify, develop, train, and reinforce with the public in mind.

As mentioned, regardless of how the changes manifest, support on some level is needed. Whether the change applies to employees, board members, or the public at large, managing that change can be a difficult task. Making use of the four steps outlined above can make the process infinitely easier. If you’re having problems, I can lend you may “Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Change Manager” nametag. Maybe that will help you achieve your goals…and garner you some spare change in the process.