Change Management: It Applies to Small Changes Too!
by Sharlyn Lauby August 31
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As a general rule, organizations and individuals are very good about considering change management strategies when it comes to big, broad sweeping change efforts. But often when we’re faced with smaller changes, well, we don’t always follow the same plan. The question becomes, “Why not?”
Change management deals with the processes, tools and techniques to handle a change that’s required to achieve a goal. Since we’re always setting new goals, we’re always dealing with change. New goals are how we move the business forward. On a personal note, new goals are how we accomplish our career goals. Effective change management helps us realize our goals. And goal achievement provides us with more opportunities.
Two Types of Change
When we talk about change, however, it’s worth noting that there are two different types.
Choice changes are the ones we choose. An organization decides to implement an employee self-service technology solution. They consciously made this decision to change and they need to proactively manage the process.
Forced changes are ones that others choose for us. A common example is when a new law is implemented and organizations have to change a policy or procedure to remain in compliance. The company didn’t request the change, but they must react to it.
We deal with both choice and forced changes on a regular basis. One is not necessarily better or worse than another. Choice changes can be advantageous because we get to control the change process. Forced changes are often viewed as positive because we didn’t have to make a decision. Someone (or something) did that for us.
The Lewin Change Model
When managing change, organizations need to find a model that works well within their corporate culture. Lewin’s Model is popular because it’s easy to remember and applicable in many situations. The model has 3 stages: Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.
The Lewin Model can be used on an organizational level such as a change in strategy, on a department level when a policy or procedure is updated, and with individuals when they set annual performance goals. It also doesn’t matter how big or small the change. For a moment, think of change as developing a new habit such as adding a cover sheet to your TPS reports.
The unfreeze stage is about changing the perception that adding a cover sheet to the TPS report is going to be worse. It’s also about letting employees know that the company realizes it’s going to take time for everyone to remember the new procedure.
In the change stage, employees will be able to test out new ways of reconfiguring their workload to add the cover sheet. Some of the methods will work well, and others may not.
Finally, during the refreeze stage, the new methods will be embedded into the employee’s routine. The “new” process becomes the “old way of doing things.”
The 3 C’s for Dealing with Change
Regardless of the change management model, there are three essential elements in any change effort.
Create a plan for change. This isn’t to say that plans aren’t subject to revisions but having a plan helps everyone understand what’s involved and who’s responsible. The SMART acronym can be a roadmap for putting plans in place.
Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more! One of the things that makes change so difficult is the unknown. Organizations can help the change process by over-communicating. This can encourage employees to communicate their feeling as well.
Celebrate milestones and successes along the way. Change doesn’t have to be dull and difficult. Don’t be afraid to have fun along the way. Also fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be bringing in doughnuts one morning for the team or giving employees a motivational book.
Small Changes Are Still Changes
Large scale changes definitely need formal change management efforts. But, small changes can be just as difficult to implement as big-scale ones. Teach employees how to use a change model that can be applied on an individual, departmental, and organizational level to help process change successfully.
How does your organization manage change?
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent.
Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality.
Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.