It is surprising to see how many jobs are advertised for ‘change managers’ at the moment. I am never quite sure what these are about as every company of necessity should be changing constantly. So in my experience as a manager I have always been a ‘change manager’. I never thought much about this until I heard an interview on the car radio this weekend with a HR specialist talking about managing change in organisations.
Every company I have ever worked with has been going through change constantly. In fact as I got more successful at instilling a change ethos, the more successful we became in our businesses. Maybe I am too young (no comments from the peanut gallery please – sorry an Americanism!) to remember a time when there was no change, but in my lifetime things have always been changing.
So what does a change manager actually do? I googled this question and the results confirmed what I thought. What organisations really need is an internal communications manager. Teams need to know what you are changing, why the change is needed and then they need to know what they will be doing after the change. Above all, they will need reassurance that their jobs are actually safe.
The fear of most people is that change is only needed to reduce costs. Of course sometimes there has to be cost cutting. If there is, state that up front and be clear quickly about who is going to lose their job and what you are going to do for them. Make sure that those who are staying can get over the shock quickly and focus on the job on hand, not on the trauma. The last thing you want is rumours festering through your organisation, however large or small it is, so people do not focus on their work.
In most cases though change management means doing more with the same resources. In other words doing things more efficiently and hopefully with a view to growing. Growing in new markets, new projects, additional products, whatever. This means exciting opportunities for people who want to expand their personal horizons.
Going into something new is what every entrepreneur has had to face up to at some point. When you started your business there will have been all kinds of people giving you a range of reasons why you should stick with your nice, safe and perhaps boring job, rather than take all the risks of starting your own business. Those same protests you will face once the company is going and you want to make a change. The difference is that you have to take your team out of their comfort zone now and not just yourself. This is where the challenge lies.
I have had to manage changes in products, markets, automation and structure. Always a challenge. Perhaps in a future blog I will try to set out some basic steps to take. In the meantime, get some ambassadors on board and you can get moving. There will still be moans and people eager to point out that it is not working, usually because the results are not clear on day one. Stick with it, keep talking to the team and slowly they will come around. Don’t be too quick to give up. It takes a lot of personal energy to manage change and there will be lots of frustrations on the way.
Going back to the interview and the HR person. Would I use HR to manage the change? Unlikely and in fact I never have, but then I have never found HR an uplifting part of organisations (sorry Renee). HR has its functions, but this is not one of them. Also for a future blog. No, it is the people at the coal face of the change you need to get on board. Work through them.
One thing is very clear – without change there is no future. Every company has to move with the times and fortunately or unfortunately change is happening faster now than ever before in our history. It is a great time and there are great opportunities.
If you want to talk about change management in your organisation, please give me a call or comment on this blog. Change is exciting and fun.