Managing transition from one state of affairs to another is easier when imagined. However, change managers will tell the story better from an experiential perspective. Regardless of the size of change, so long as human beings are involved, tact, professionalism and experience can be taken fore-granted only when the plan is to fail. The clamor for change rings loud all over, but confronted with change; those who clamor for it would rather stay the same. An irony of some sort! Change will not come except somebody gives up something for the change to happen. This, perhaps, is the greatest reason why a lot of people get frightened by change and will resist it at all cost. Beyond the vision of a new dawn, better and improved state of affairs, the “what’s in it for me’’ element looms large. This question must be tackled before any meaningful progress is made. Employees want this question answered, and very clearly too, before giving their buy-in.
When employees oppose change, the resistance may not be direct. This is often the greatest challenge that managers face. When employees do not believe in the change, different means of sabotage can be adopted to frustrate the change in order to perpetuate the status quo. This is one of the reasons why change managers should be more appreciative of employees who speak out their minds when they disagree. These set of employees are easier to manage; they give their managers the opportunity to explain things in clear terms until an understanding is reached. However, others who pretend to be in agreement, but quietly and slowly poison the minds of others while adopting other forms of subtle resistance are clearly more dangerous and remain the inexperienced change managers’ Achilles heel.
Gone are the days when technical skills were the only requirement for an employee to rise to the peak of his career. Apart from the fact that the responsibility for team success rests squarely on the shoulders of the leader, the skill to inspire the team to demonstrate the attitudes and behaviours that align with the organization’s strategy has also become critical. Strategy is nothing if the necessary change is not implemented to take the organization to the desired state. It’s worse off when the leader does not demonstrate enough passion to inspire the team. A typical case of “you cannot give what you don’t have”. The competition for market share will continue to remain in the front burner, while profit returns will consistently take the number one spot in the assessment metrics of company executives. While the company executive is held accountable for the overall results, he in turn relies on his team to initiate and implement the right changes that guaranty the desired business outcomes. This is where the issue of fit becomes very apparent. A result-oriented chief executive will exert pressure on his managers and kick-out non performers if the need arises.
The business environment is tough, will be tough, and will continue to remain so! Those who know how to scan their business environment for new developments with appropriate change management response plans will maintain dominance in their sector while others who wait for the coast to clear off will follow behind until they can no longer cope. Such organizations can easily be found in the archives of the dead.
For organizations to survive the turbulence in the competitive business environment, they need managers, who can think on their feet, manage resistance of team members to change initiatives, and deliver key results. Change management skill is “no longer a good to have”; it is a critical skill for a manager of the future. Visit www.icming.org to learn more.
Joseph A. Anetor