People Management Critical to Change Success

Posted on by Mark Fernandez

Organisations that fail to manage the people side of change vastly reduce the likelihood of success.

Let’s say you are introducing a new IT system designed to speed up processes, make things more accurate, and even make life easier for your staff.  Ask yourself, what percentage of the expected benefits of this change are dependent on your people changing the way they do things?  Often the answer is 100%. 

You have probably done your due diligence, researched many IT systems and providers, set aside the budget and drawn up detailed project plans – but what percentage of the time and effort in the planning is concerned with helping people make the change?  Often the answer is none or very little, perhaps a short training session just before the “go-live” date. 

Often there is significant investment in the infrastructure and systems, with a business case that outlines the return on investment when it is fully operational.  With such a lot riding on the outcome, doesn’t it make sense to invest in the very component that has the biggest impact on success – your people?

Change management can be summarised in a simple diagram, adapted from the work undertaken by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identifying the stages of grief.

DENIAL -> RESISTANCE -> EXPLORATION -> ACCEPTANCE

When faced with any change, the first reaction of all of us is denial.  We can hear people say “this can’t be happening” or “I’ll believe it when I see it”.  This can last a short time, but equally people can get stuck in this stage even when the evidence of progress is all around them.

The second stage is resistance.  This can be very visual – people get angry and refuse to do things. It can also be more subtle – passive aggressive behaviour where someone appears to be willing but doesn’t put anything into practice.

The next stage is exploration. It is important to use the WIIFM rule – What’s In It For Me.  For staff to really adapt to the new way of working, there has to be a reason for them – it makes their job easier/quicker/more interesting, or gives them time to focus on other things. If staff work out that the new system is actually going to make their lives more difficult, or even put their jobs at risk, they will go straight back to resistance.

The final stage is acceptance.  This is when the change becomes such a part of everyday behaviour that we forget it was ever different. Of course this is usually when the next opportunity for change appears and we start the cycle again.

How do we move from one stage to another?  It is important to recognise where someone is on the change curve, as we can only effectively move to the adjacent stage, rather than jump a stage.  Here are some suggestions for moving your people through the curve:

 Jayne Griffiths is the Managing Director of My HR Adviser. We work with small and medium businesses and pride ourselves on making the complex simple.

Jayne.griffiths@myhradviser.com.au

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