WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN we were scared by life’s uncertainties, things that may harm us, or imaginary monsters that appeared in the night. As we become adults the most scary event, behind divorce, tax or our football team losing the grand final, is the monster called ‘change’.
And yet, nowhere in the dictionary is ‘change’ listed as harmful. The Oxford Dictionary lists verbs for change as alter, adapt, amend, revise, reshape and reorganise. It lists change nouns as reorganisation, re-jigging, metamorphosis, evolution, revamping and transformation. Indeed, if organisations used these verbs or nouns as descriptions for change management, the perception of harm would instantly be dismissed.
Mr Mark Phooi, CEO of First Media Design School in Singapore, stated in the Singapore Straits Times, “Change is constant. Like a device’s operating system, a person needs to be constantly upgraded to become a better version of himself or be rendered obsolete in today’s fast changing environment”. That quote again does not conjure up visions of harm, but rather of personal growth and development. So why do a large proportion of people fear change in their work environment? The thought of building skills, learning new work processes or job diversification should inspire and motivate, but alas, many prefer to remain in constant stasis.
This resistance to change can be squarely blamed on senior managers, who fail to build trust and credibility within the change process. The common question, when people are involved in the change process, is What is in it for me? Too often their questions, whether implicit or explicit, go unanswered, and the change monster slowly creeps into view. It is imperative that management, at this point of time, slay the monster. Consistently clear communication and obtaining employee feedback contributes greatly to a reduction in resistance and high levels of engagement.
If companies link the change process to the human element of ‘evolving people’, that would go some way to answering the question of What’s in it for me? Unfortunately too many managers manage the process, and forget about the human element. Canadian academic, Henry Mintzberg, stated that, the art of management had been lost due to the pressures of day to day management activities. This in part is true because managers get caught up in the planning, leading, organising and controlling, but forget about the human element. And this is the lost art. Managers in the years ahead need to rapidly rediscover that lost art, because that is a critical element in maintaining a sustainable workforce.
So in short, when you give simple answers that are consistent, have clarity, and really inject a good dose of the human element into the change process, you not only allow your team to ‘evolve’ with the change, but you cull the change monster.