5 Tips for Managing Change in Organisations
Overseeing the merger of two major publishing houses will teach you a thing or two about managing significant change within organisations, and embracing the opportunities that arise in creating something new. The HR Director of Severn Trent, and previously Penguin House, Neil Morrison expounds on how to drive organisations through times of transition by creating a strong purpose and being transparent about searching for the 'best solution'.
Check out his five top tips for managing change in organisations below!
Most of us have tried to change our lives in one way or another. Maybe we’ve tried to give up smoking, alcohol or chocolate; perhaps we’ve promised to learn a new skill, to not work such long hours, to eat more healthily or to go to the gym.
We know from experience how difficult it is to make and sustain these personal changes, so we can easily imagine how difficult it is for thousands of individuals to do so at the same time. Across the world, that’s what organisations are trying to do right now and, just like you or I making that commitment to get the perfect beach body, they often fall short.
The question is: why?
The first thing we need to recognise is that behavioural change is hard. Intellectually, we can understand the need; yet somehow the intentions and the actions don’t always match. That’s why New Year’s resolutions dissipate come February, gym membership cards languish in drawers and, despite best intentions, we are drawn back to the comfort of old, familiar routines.
Heart, not just mind. What's your narrative for change?
Organisations are made up of people with learnt behaviours, reinforced by the processes and procedures that are repeated daily. If you think about your working day, how much of it is based on a routine? So to make organisational change truly sustainable, we need to work not just on the intellectual reasons or requirements, but on a myriad of other factors too.
1. Creating the compelling narrative
To make a change, both head and heart need to understand the reason for it. How can you reach people on both levels? Does the reason vary for different groups?
2. Building the system that supports the change
Habits form over time. How do we help people to break old ones and build new ones? What do we reward and recognise?
3. Recognising that people change at different speeds and not everyone will want to come along
If people have different tolerances to change, how long are you willing to wait for them?
4. Iterating and creating a realistic vision of success
It is almost impossible that the first vision of any end state will be the one that you achieve (think of the beach body). Are you being realistic in your goals? What have you learned that will make you redefine success?
5. Focus on a point long after the finish line
How will you know when you’ve been successful? Why do good intentions suddenly reverse? Are habits really formed, or are we still practising?
Change management isn't about finishing lines
Change doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen at the end of a Gantt chart or project plan. To be really good at anything, it takes constant repetition and practice as well as a sustained approach. If all it took to change was an intellectual understanding of the need, then we would all be fitter, healthier and happier than we probably are.
That said, the great thing about change is that it is achievable. There is no system in existence that cannot be changed with the right focus, opportunity and resources. We’ve all heard the story of the individual who completely changed their life against the odds. These iterations of remarkable success demonstrate that change is truly possible in any context - even in the most unlikely of places.
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