Planning for change can occupy a great deal of a manager’s time and energy, but it is not a process that can be left to chance: it can be tricky and disruptive if handled badly. Whether implementing a new job-rotation scheme, rearranging the office layout, introducing new technology, relocating your manufacturing operations, or anything else, a manager must use a preliminary, systematic planning approach to bring about successful change later…

prepare change

1. Be convinced that change is necessary.

Are you sure that the intended change is sound and that there is every likelihood it will succeed? Is it practical, ethical, cost-effective? Will it solve more problems than it will create? Is it based on untested theory or speculation, on fashion, or a whim? Are the risks acceptable? Has it proven successful elsewhere? Can you specifically identify projected improvements in productivity? There is little to be gained from adopting a plan that is doomed to failure before it gets off the drawing board.

2. Analyse the change in terms of the present and the future.

Now would also be the time to question what might happen if you did nothing. Get a clear picture of your present organisation without the change in place. Then visualise the situation as it will be after the change is implemented. By visualising a future state, you’re able to put a new perspective on the present, and be assured that the proposed change is worthy of support. Without a vision, change efforts dissolve into a list of time-consuming, incompatible, and confusing projects going in different directions – or nowhere at all.

3. Understand why the change might be resisted.

Resistance to change is a natural response because we usually prefer stability and feel comfortable and satisfied with habit and routine. If anything diverging from the norm is introduced into our environment, it will be seen as disruptive. As well, change is often resisted because of –

Self-interest:– I will lose money, status, privileges, and authority. I will have added responsibility with no adequate recompense.

Fear:– I don’t have the skills and experience to adapt. I’ll be worse off than I am now.

Uncertainty:– I don’t understand the specifics of the change. What does it all mean? How secure is my job? Will it mean more work?

External pressure:– I resent external interference and want to be in control of my own destiny. I have had little to say in the change.

Past experience:– I’ve become too cynical about change. It’s been too disruptive and ineffective in the past.

4. Consider how staff fears might be addressed.

As a manager, you must put yourself into the shoes of your employees and prepare yourself to tackle staff fears head-on by developing strategies to help in the implementation phase.

Begin by assembling facts and arguments to answer the concerns of employees and to dispel their fears. With a little creative thought, potential objections can be turned into advantages. Plan how to communicate your vision and this information, and how to offset any objectionable aspects of the change initiative which cannot be eliminated.

5. Develop a tentative but detailed plan.

Draft an outline plan by identifying and listing each task or element of the change. Arrange the elements into their proper sequence or parallel relationships for implementation, construct a tentative timetable, allocate responsibilities, where necessary undertake critical path scheduling, and consider resource requirements. Focus on the appropriate means of involving staff in the planning and implementation stages of the process.

6. Prepare to shake off complacency.

Change is a measure of life in progress; complacency is often what’s holding it back. Consider how the following approaches might be used to reveal to your staff the need for change:

  • Create a crisis or crises to shake staff out of their complacency.
  • Introduce goals that require action rather than wishy-washy acquiescence.
  • Benchmark your most successful competitor.
  • Survey and report on dissatisfied customers’ and shareholders’ opinions.
  • Restructure to remove the ‘comfort-zone’.
  • Raise performance standards for everyone.
  • Visualise a lean and mean operation.
  • Focus on opportunities, not on yesterday’s successes.

7. Prepare for the involvement of others.

The key to successful change is for management to treat staff as part of the organisation, rather than as the opposition or target. For this reason, it will be essential to involve staff in the change process as soon as possible following this, your initial preliminary planning.

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