Linda Nash

Linda Nash

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Change Without Mutiny

Every business owner and manager dreads that sudden dip in morale, the lowered productivity, the complaining and sometimes, the frozen in fear like a deer in the headlights, that accompanies change. Changing an office, a procedure, reporting structure or personnel are essentially mechanical. It is the transition that people must go through, because of the change, that causes the difficulty.

The old "get a grip" speech may work temporarily. People will at least pretend things are all right, but the signs of mutiny are everywhere. The grapevine is hot and defensiveness prevails. Anger, masking hurt feelings and fear preoccupies minds and ultimately, your bottom line will be affected. Not in your company! Don't be so sure. I've seen many a CEO in denial. Is it avoidable? Not completely. But knowing the ROPES and using them effectively will smooth the transition.

R is for Reason. Sell the problem before you try to sell the solution. What is the reason you need to make the change? Communicate it effectively to your staff. Don't just make a statement at a meeting or send a memo. The ears go first when people are stressed. Communicate in at least four ways. Your choices: (1 memo, (2 in person at a meeting, (3 e-mail, (4 in person individually, (5 company newsletter or (6 bulletin board. If you have other avenues, use them.

Perhaps you're saying, "Hey, it's my company and I can do anything I want to." Yes, you can. But, smooth sailing requires a team effort. Expect the seas to get rough if you pass up the Reason or handle it poorly.

O is for Outcome. What will you achieve by making the change? Explain what it means to the company and to the individuals. What are the rewards? Are sacrifices necessary now to have a good result in the future? Change can provide new and sometimes exciting opportunities. Communicate them.

Don't overlook Outcome. One company I worked with did, even though the future possibilities were excellent. The result was almost two years of turmoil, treading water, loss of some talented staff and a decline in revenue. It was a waste of valuable time and resources. It shouldn't have been that severe.

P is for Plan. What is your plan? Explain the steps necessary to achieve the goal. If you have a plan A and plan B, explain both. Employees who feel informed and trusted are more likely to be supportive through the roughest waters. Change is like being lost at sea. Knowing the plan gives people a chart to follow.

People flounder without a plan. They're afraid to move because it may be the wrong move. They wait and hope for a sign. Waiting is costly.

E is for Engage. Let people know how they can be involved in the process. Allow them to participate in the plan, if possible. Tell them what they have to offer and what they need to work on. Engaging people in the process increases their ownership of the change and allows them to become part of the transition solution. It stimulates creativity and encourages movement.

Be sure that engagement is real and not just futile busywork. I've witnessed that scenario in companies many times. The result is more frustration, loss of trust and mental shutdown. If you're asked to think and contribute and no one cares, why bother.

S is for Support. Be positive. Motivate your employees. Let them know that you value them, you believe in them and you will help them succeed. Everyone needs support. It provides a safety net for the necessary risk taking.

Applying the ROPES before you change course can minimize the dip in morale and loss of productivity. First though, go through all five steps yourself to see if you really can justify the change. If you can't, perhaps you should reevaluate the situation.

Change, whether it appears positive or negative is difficult for most people. How frightened were you when you finally finished college or married? Be honest with yourself. Transitions always mean a loss of something, even small transitions. Letting go is not easy. The ROPES will serve as a life line to get you and your people through the storms and uncertainty of change.

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Linda Nash
Linda Nash is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author in the areas of change and resilience. To receive her free E-zine Bouncing Back go to  To contact Linda call
314.872.8787 or e-mail

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