No matter how perfect your change management plan is, there are sure to be bumps in the road. Here are some dos and don’ts to help smooth out those inevitable bumps and keep you on track.
When working though a change process, the seemingly impossible task of expecting the unexpected is a part of your job as a leader. While it's nearly impossible to predict, let alone plan for, every negative development, many of the more common problems are easy to spot early.
Here’s what to look for—and look out for—during your change process, to keep you and your team on track.
Accept course corrections
Avoid such sacred cows as, "Well, we’ve already started – there’s no going back now" or anything that challenges valuable course corrections early on. Small, nearly insignificant, and easily overlooked changes to the plan at the beginning are more a threat to ego than unraveling the change.
New information could present itself in an untimely fashion...but that shouldn’t diminish its value. (A good example of this would be finding out that a new product or process was gathering unexpected success or momentum.) Relevant information, no matter how inconvenient, is not your enemy. You're still getting the change your business needs, even if you take a slightly different path to get there.
Be ready to sell to the people who’ve already bought in
Preaching to the choir is the best way to get them to sing, and you’re going to need your choir. In other words, you’re going to need your team’s confidence throughout the process.
It may seem like you’re fighting old battles, but the buy-in is too valuable to lose. You can avoid a lot of interdepartmental and interpersonal conflict by being the team captain and cheerleader. It’s up to you to enthusiastically sell your ideas and encourage others to see how the change process is providing the benefits and efficiencies that necessitated them in the first place.
Put the best people in the best place
The first few rounds on a change process can be uncomfortable, even painful. This is a good time to put some of the buy-in to the test. Some people might be eager to step out of their comfort zones to prove they’re capable of handling a team. Others might enjoy the challenges presented by going solo on a particular project to advance the change. Everyone should be willing and able to do the part you’ve chosen for them.
The reverse is also true: If someone is clearly not a good fit because they just can’t or won’t see the benefit, find out if they have something to add, such as some experience competence. If not, then there is surely some better position for them somewhere else. You now have a chance to move them to a place where they can avoid jeopardizing their career and your change trajectory.
Identify conflicts as they arise
Conflicts of direction should be identified as they arise. For example, if your change process threatens to eliminate jobs or even a whole department, you’re going to see honest pushback at every turn. This is the time to double down on your certainty or manage whatever second thoughts you might harbor.
This is where the information you’ve gathered before the change will come in handy. Managing conflict early, working off of good assumptions, and having a toolbox full of useful ideas will all prove valuable to keeping your change process running smoothly.
Keep those meetings coming
During the change process, you and your team need to have long conversations about how the changes are relating to the rest of the business, as well as short meetings to check morale (or vice versa). Make sure you lead the meeting, and remember, this is your chance to listen to what’s happening, to provide leadership, and to clarify expectations above and below.
Besides, management and associates will always benefit from working more closely together. If you help build relationships and encourage teamwork early, it will be the best and often least costly way to manage conflict in the future.