Change is hard. It is often the harbinger of stress, confusion, aimlessness, and at its worst—anarchy amongst employees. Change can also be a life-giver, a refresh button, a savior to a dying organization, and the only way back to success or even functionality. The outcomes of organizational transitions or changes are completely saddled with the management of those transitions (and yes, also the type of transition that’s happening). Whatever the outcomes may be, they’re unavoidable and the conversation about managing change effectively is one worth having.
So what kind of change are we talking about? Obviously there are countless types of transitions and all of them have their own nuances, but there are a few we see more frequently. We’ll put them into two not-so-formal categories: “the boat is rocked” or “the bottom drops out”.
A “boat is rocked” transition might be something like a new product launch, a new assignment, new responsibility (external or person), or a new policy. It’s something that may significantly shift the daily workings of an organization, but not its fundamental mission or purpose. A “bottom drops out” transition is one where employees may feel like their workplace has been hijacked and that whatever transition has ensued has shifted the culture or purpose of the organization – things like a company buy-out or merger, owner retiring and new management taking over, or a new person running a department.
These types of transitions are inevitable, but they’re often handled poorly.
As mentioned before, there are a few potential outcomes of transition in an organization: they go smoothly, they are really bad, or they’re somewhere in between. A smooth transition is signaled by good communication, clarity of expectations and accountability, good progress measurement, ability to adjust as needed, and there is a clear future outlined. A bad transition often results from conflicting decisions, lack of clarity and trust, a feeling of instability, poor communication and personal agendas at work (just to name a few). Neutral transitions are a mix of both – some things work, some don’t. Most organizations probably land in that category and have a bent towards either a more negative or positive process of transition.
So how do you do it well? Here are 10 steps toward effective change management that we hope will encourage and enable you to enter in to your transition with more confidence.