Managing Change

Changes are exciting when done by us and threatening when done to us."Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of Confidence and SuperCorp.

Leaders play the most important role in change initiatives. It is up to them to be enthusiastic about the change and to ensure their team that change is for the better, being aware of the three major concepts when dealing with change.

Three Major Concepts Regarding Change

  1. Get commitment from people to make successful changes.
  2. Help guide people through the psychological process that comes with change.
  3. Communicate the process of transitions and the elements of each step to facilitate trust during this challenging time.

There are three phases of transition when making a change: Letting go, the Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. (Published with permission from Managing Transition, Making the Most of Change, 3rd edition by William Bridges and Associates, De Capo Press, 1991, 2003, 2009).

Letting Go

  • Accept the reality and importance of subjective losses.
  • Work with the staff to focus on the current change.
  • Acknowledge openly and sympathetically the grieving, anger, denial and other attitudes that may be displayed during the change.
  • Compensate for losses.
  • Continue to communicate as the changes are taking place.
  • Mark the endings with actions.

The Neutral Zone

  • Acknowledge that during this stage people generally feel afraid or unsure.
  • Create support systems, avoid unrelated and unexpected changes during this time and make sure all policies support the change.
  • Develop short-term goals.
  • Don’t assume this will be a high-productivity period; the change in structure is the most important thing going on.
  • Support supervisors by coaching and training them.
  • Encourage experimentation, redesign processes, setbacks and opportunities.

New Beginnings

  • Explain the purpose of the change.
  • Paint a picture of the future and plan for it.
  • Engage all staff with a part to play in the future.
  • Reinforce the changes being made by being consistent in your actions.

Caring for yourself during transitions is critical to personal and organizational success.

  • Decide what you lose during this change (beliefs, self-image, assumptions, etc.)
  • Distinguish between current losses and old wounds.
  • Identify your continuities; not everything is ending so focus on aspects of your job that will continue.
  • Recognize the symptoms of the neutral zone and do not “fall in to the trap”
  • Make a plan to change your life.
  • Remember that even changes you want to make put you in transition.

Remember that change is scary, but is done for a good reason!

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