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How to Protect Your Relevance from Extinction

You Must Remember, Resistance to Change is Human

Change efforts succeed to the degree you manage the human side.

For most of us, organizational change is not of our making, and our experiences range from inconvenience to abject terror. Change that affects our ability to earn an income, maintain status, or progress in our careers falls closer to the terror end of the continuum. The magnitude of these changes can alter our world, our worldview, and our behavior.

Many previously productive employees will disengage from the process and only do the minimum required. In a poorly managed change, even the best contributors can become saboteurs. People and departments that used to support each other can become bitter rivals.

But change needn’t be so scary. You can mitigate or avoid many of the worst effects by paying close attention to the human needs we all experience during major changes.

  1. Consider everyone’s needs. Do a thorough, enterprise-wide stakeholder analysis that includes an “environmental impact” assessment of who wins, who loses, who is being forced to play along, and the effect each area has on all other areas. This includes all points along the value chain, inside and outside of the organization.

  2. Give everyone a voice. Include representatives of every level, in each affected area, and during all phases of a project. Make sure your methods and measures at each point are meaningful and credible to those who are involved.

  3. Tell everyone the same story. All communication should be as transparent as legally possible. Every person needs to be on the same page about the new expectations. Make the time to let everyone know, preferably at the same time.

  4. Manage differently. You want different behaviors so you must provide different clues and cues. If it’s the same old thing for you, it will be for everyone else too. Leaders and managers viewed as part of the old system, even for a day, must change first.

  5. Everyone is part of the solution. Provide tools, education, and resources so someone doesn’t inadvertently put more holes in the boat, even as we’re busy bailing it out.

  6. Keep them informed. Clear goals, regular and frequent feedback, and providing big and small picture context helps everyone to stay focused.

  7. Reward effort as well as success. Embrace reduced effectiveness and even the occasional failure as a necessary part of mastering new skills and procedures.

  8. Be honest. When you don’t know, tell them you don’t know. When the news is not good, tell them straight the first time. When the news is good, help them keep it in perspective.

  9. Plan for Unintended Consequences. Admit you’re not perfect and that even with your best efforts you haven’t thought of everything. But always have a plan to implement when the unexpected and unintended happens.

  10. Follow through. If you don’t, no one will.

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