Leading and Managing Change: Sometimes we forget how change impacts our people

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Last week I was reminded about how much change is going on around us. Quite legitimately people can argue that every generation experiences and deals with change at all levels. We only have to think about the changes that resulted from the introduction of the telephone, the fax machine and the internet.

However, over the last twenty years we have seen our fair share of discontinuous change; the advent of the World Wide Web is one such example. The late twentieth and early twenty first century has increased the speed at which change occurs and has created a smaller world. This blog can be on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds, something not possible before 1994.

As leaders and managers we need to remember that while technology and other aspects can change quickly generally people are slower to embrace change. In companies there are a small number of people who welcome change, the majority don’t and at times even resist change.   Unless leaders and managers understand what happens to people when change is initiated people can become frustrated by the change process and productivity drops.

Here are some reoccurring themes people have shared with us about what they experienced when change was introduced in their organisation:

  • Even though the case for change may be explained on more than one occasion people’s feelings and emotions overshadow the rational explanations being offered for the change. So much so that most people say they first focus on what they will lose as a result of the change rather than the benefits they stand to gain.
  • People report feeling very self-conscious, even awkward, as they learn to use and apply newly acquired skills or ways of completing their work needed to comply with the change required.
  • One aspect that almost always comes up is change fatigue; people say that in organisations today it feels like change is constant and relentless. One change just rolls into the next and the next. As leaders we need to remember that people are not all the same and have different tolerance levels for change. It’s rare for people to refuse to enact a change, however some people are slower to embrace change than others.
  • Because change inevitably means people have to do things differently, they fret they will not have the resources they need to complete their work. Invariably the resources are there, it may be they have been reallocated, reprioritised, or deployed in different ways, however as managers we need to understand that if people sense that there are insufficient resources (people, time, budget, materials, and services) it can be a source of anxiety for them.

Any significant change in organisations is usually accompanied by loss of productivity, no matter how well the change is planned, managed, and executed. The goal for managers is to minimise the length and depth of the disruption caused by the change thus minimising the impact on productivity loss. Understanding the four points outlined above helps make planned change smoother and easier to manage.

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.