Asking the Right Questions to Start the Change

Have you ever wondered how a change starts within the organisation? There are many things management needs to consider. Once the organisation objectives are established, the proper questions must be asked in order to determine the most efficient way to reach them. To do this, we must understand both the strategical (management) needs and the process that needs to be put in place to execute them.

The worst case scenario in Change Management is when you have a constant redefinition of scope, timing and/or leadership. Each time one of these elements is affected, the overall goal is challenged.

Change in Scope? Since we are rediscussing it, it can be a good opportunity to include something that was overlooked the first time.

Change in Timing? Let’s push the deadline a little bit… postpone it until it’s forgotten.

Change in Leadership? Good! We get to rediscuss Scope and Timing with a completely new person.

This is why before starting, we need to have all the issues covered. Once the decision is taken and the change has been announced, there is almost no space for corrections.

Now, when you see “no corrections”, it looks rigid and makes you wonder – is that realistic? It sure is IF you do it the right way: by asking the right questions at all levels. This will reduce the negative impact of the change process on your business and your employees and lead to a clear definition of all the aspects and needs of the project, enabling you to produce a clear communication plan and a coherent plan.

Why Must I Change?

First, we must understand why we are changing. What is our main drive? Are we answering to a market request or maybe moving to a new business area? Are we trying to reduce costs or increase our performance? Is the change a response to new laws or legal constraints?

Who Will Have to Change?

Who will be involved in the change? Will it be the entire organisation or just a part of it? Must we have a switch-off or are we doing it gradually throughout the organisation?

When Will This Happen?

What are our deadlines? Is this a short-term action or do we have some years ahead of us to adapt? Do we have in-between milestones?

What Is Going to Be Its Influence (How Much Will the Change Be Painful)?

What will be the impact of this change? Is it just organisational or structural? What will be the consequences on our everyday life?

For example, if my company is going from producing only leather sofas to including other materials like polyester will have an impact on the supply chain as well as the working methods. Your company image and how it’s perceived, by both employees and customers, will change. While the persons directly involved with the assembling of the furniture will be impacted, we can expect this to have a smaller impact on the rest of the staff.

On the other hand, moving your factory to another city will have an enormous impact on everybody, while the impact on the working procedures will be minimal.

Having this in mind, it is important to check carefully the points below.

To What Extent Do We Need to Change?

Implementing a change is not easy. There is much work to be done before the change is introduced or even announced. Leadership must determine what that exactly entails, starting from the impact of the change  to the most effective way to institute it.

Asking “what” and “who” can help leadership determine the scope of the change. It is important to determine the impacted areas, needed (legal, technological and human) resources, timing and costs. Be careful: this is the most delicate phase since any alteration of these parameters will have consequences on every aspect of your project.  

Leadership should be aware of all those who will be affected by the changes. Knowing how many employees will be influenced by the change can help the leadership estimate the impact. The more the organisation is affected, the more we can expect the employees to resist the change. On the other side, the more we segment (change) the affected population, the more we can minimise the level of resistance.

Roles

change hierarchyGood leadership is the key to introducing changes to any organisation. It is imperative that leadership is well-established and that their mission is clearly communicated to the organisation. That way, there is no question as to with whom to discuss concerns and doubts. Having a clear leadership helps to set the tone for morale and determining what motivates employees to be successful.

The role of the Top Mangement as a sponsor of the change is vital to the process. Each of the actors must know their role in the project and must have a clear authorization for their actions.

Objectives

Determining what motivates the staff members can be a challenge. Change is natural in business. Sadly, so is the human mistrust of it! Growth is a necessity, but people are afraid of its consequences. In order to have effective change, it is helpful when everyone is on the same page, the staff and the leadership.

As I mentioned above, one of the first objectives must be to ensure that the leadership is clear and well-established. Once this is done, the objectives should be clearly communicated to all those who have access to the information. The most common case is that in the first phases the companies aren’t able to communicate all the details, which is fine, the important thing is that information is flowing.

Organisation objectives should be set and declared, but if this is not possible (for example, for legal reasons), just communicate what you can. Keep an open channel of communication between employees and management in order to avoid unnecessary stress.

The in-between steps also should be highlighted.

Motivation

From there, leadership should take the time to understand what motivates their employees. This is an integral step in making sure that the change implementation processes run more smoothly. It would be helpful to make sure that the processes in place are properly explained in order to avoid misunderstandings. Try to involve a representative of all impacted areas as much as possible, so that everyone can feel their needs are being addressed during this delicate phase.

Motivation is different for everyone. People ask themselves “What’s In It For Me?”. In this phase, it’s important to show that any change is a major opportunity for those who are willing to challenge themselves within the new reality. What is deemed as a motivator varies from person to person, and is dependent upon what that person needs, desires, and what drives them.

Employees must find intrinsic motivators in order to be successful in the workplace. Work must be completed at a high level regardless of the presence of rewards or recognition. Leadership is asked to create environments that encourage self- motivation.

A common mistake is to rush into something new, with the delusion that details and people can be addressed at a later stage.

One could say that with great changes comes great responsibility for all those in the driver’s seat. As a Manager or as a Team leader, you have a higher level of information and knowledge than the rest of the organisation. Your responsibility is to gather the needed information, analyse it and do your very best.

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