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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
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
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
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
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.
Word count 712
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
www.Lindanash.com To contact Linda
314.872.8787 or e-mail
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