Change management tips and best practices

Michael Taras
March 9, 2021
7
Minutes

Change isn’t easy. While that’s hardly the insight of the century, organizations and business owners can overlook this simple fact when pursuing enhanced efficiency, productivity, and monetary gain. Change management seeks to address the challenges that come with making lasting organizational change, such as technology updates, acquisitions and mergers, organizational restructuring, and much more. 


Learn more about the benefits of change management, including how to implement a change management strategy and change management best practices. 

What is change management?

Change management is a collection of different approaches designed to prepare, support, and empower individuals and teams to embrace and successfully implement organizational change. 


Changes to organizational structure, office technology, etc., may seem like a no-brainer when you’re at the top and only considering the numbers, but what works in theory may look a lot different on the ground. It’s always important to remember that an organization is made up of individuals who will be the ones actually learning and adapting to the change.


Whether it’s installing new software or moving your workforce online overnight, change is disruptive. There are a lot of moving pieces in an organization, and they all need to cooperate with one another for a change to be successful. Never underestimate how negatively poorly-communicated or rapid changes can affect your team. 


Effective and lasting change requires clear structure and communication. Change management helps define and communicate the nature of a change, including why it’s happening and who it will affect. Change management also helps teams implement the change, analyze the results, and make improvements. 

How to implement a change management strategy

Apply adaptive leadership

Adaptive leadership is about inspiring your team, not dominating it. Adaptive leaders are there to facilitate a collaborative, innovative, and adaptable environment through emotional intelligence, clear communication, honesty, and enthusiasm. 


Adaptive leaders are able to roll with the punches, anticipate future needs and roadblocks, pivot when something isn’t working, embrace new ideas and information, and delegate effectively. Emotional intelligence and effective communication skills are key to the change process, as these attributes help build trust between you and your team members. If employees have concerns about a change, they need to know you will listen and take them seriously.  


Feedback from customers, peers, and team members is integral to successful change. As an adaptive leader, you need to be able to articulate how the change enables greater organizational success and aligns with your brand values. What does the change entail? Who will it affect? Why is the change necessary? How will it help? While it may seem easier to adopt a my way or the highway managerial attitude, what can’t bend breaks. 


Change brings on many challenges. Be transparent with your team and listen to their feedback. An effective team is built on mutual respect and trust. 


📚 For more leadership advice, check out How to become a better leader: A guide to transformational leadership 

Utilize the change curve

Changes, whether big or small, take time. Even haircuts take time to get used to, so when major changes occur in your work environment, it’s important to understand the complex emotional stages your team is going through. 


The Change Curve is inspired by Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, which seek to define the series of powerful emotions human beings endure when facing the inevitable. While the original five stages apply to facing death, the Change Curve in the workplace applies to facing changes that a team doesn’t necessarily have a say in. Just because a change is happening doesn't mean everyone is on board immediately. Change takes time.


The six stages of the Change Curve are:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining and Self-Blame

Depression and Confusion

Acceptance and Exploration

Problem Solving and Integration


This is not a set-in-stone, sequential list. Everyone responds to change differently. Some will get stuck on one stage for quite a long time, others will skip stages entirely, and others will continue to circle back to stages they seemingly already went through. 


As a manager, it’s important to understand the various emotions at play inside each of your team members. If circumstances allow, give your team plenty of time to process the new information. For change to be effective, it can’t be forced. 


📚 Learn more in our article How to Apply the Kübler-Ross Change Curve in the Workplace.

Establish a culture of continuous improvement

Don’t allow your team to get used to the status quo. Build consistent improvement, adaptation, and innovation into your company culture, and encourage your team to bring up any new ideas they have. If an employee thinks they can complete a project in a way you haven’t thought of, encourage them to try it out and welcome every opportunity to provide feedback. Don’t forget to celebrate successful innovations! 


Of course, rewarding and celebrating innovation also means accepting failure. Not every new idea is going to pan out. These innovations are only failures if your team doesn't take the opportunity to learn from them. 


Even successes can be improved upon. Plus, encouraging your team to try new things will give them more confidence in the long-run, which means you can delegate tasks more effectively. 


Keep an eye on the latest innovations and focus on continual improvement to ensure your team is able to adapt in the face of change. When a big change does come around, it won’t be as much of a shock. Change is natural, and it’s constant. Build it into your culture, so your team is always ready for what’s to come. 

Change management best practices

Be honest and transparent with your team


Save the surprises for Taylor Swift’s 12 am album drops. 


Be honest and upfront with your team about any upcoming changes, and let everyone know as soon as possible. No one wants to feel as though they’re being kept in the dark. Only informing management or a few employees about a change and leaving others out is a breeding ground for rumors that can quickly take on a life of their own and spread false information around an office. 


Don’t play favorites. Communicate openly with your entire team and let them know you’re there to answer any questions they have. As we said earlier, change takes time. Communicate changes early on so your team has time to process the information. 


Connect with your team through one on one meetings or all-hands meetings depending on the nature of the change and who it affects. Make sure the meeting has a predetermined length and a clear purpose. 


📚 Learn more about effective meeting management

Ask for and give continuous feedback

Aid the process of change by asking for and providing continuous feedback. We’ve all had managers who would only comment on our job performance when they felt we’d done something wrong. And if we rarely made mistakes, we wouldn’t hear much from them at all. It’s pretty difficult to gauge your own performance, whether an employee or manager, without any outside information or insight. 


Asking for feedback from your team and customers during a change will help you gauge your successes and failures. With feedback, you can make adjustments to your strategy as you learn more. Understanding how others feel about a workplace change will help you make the transition as smooth as possible.


Feedback should be a consistent part of the work environment, and it should be a two-way street. Be accountable to your team and let them know they can speak to you about your own job performance. Whether you’re providing feedback or receiving it, it’s crucial that mutual respect is maintained at all times. Feedback is about constant improvement; it’s not an opportunity to be rude or make someone feel bad.


Ensure the feedback you provide, whether positive or negative, is always constructive. Give your team member a foundation to build on and a path to continually improve. 


📚 Learn more about the benefits of feedback in our Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback.

Recruit People With a High AQ (Adaptability Quotient)

The ability to adapt to changes as they come is a skill. Similar to someone's IQ (Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient), someone’s ability to adapt can be measured by their AQ (Adaptability Quotient.)


People with a high AQ are able to quickly adjust to changes, innovate, and use brand new strategies to solve tough problems. They are flexible and learn from past successes and failures, adjusting and adapting to change as they go. AQ represents resourcefulness, curiosity, problem solving, and the ability to unlearn. People with a high AQ understand there’s not just one set way to do things, which means they’ll be ready to work through any change that occurs in your workplace.


While businesses once admired employees with experience and knowledge, adaptability has quickly become a highly sought-after skill as well. In your recruitment and hiring process, seek out individuals who possess a high AQ. These are the people that will be able to help your business solve a wide range of complex problems—both the ones you expect and the completely unexpected.


How do you survive an unexpected pandemic? How does your business compete with AI technology? How do you meet the needs of an emerging Gen Z workforce? How do you implement sustainable business practices?


Build a team from the ground up that’s adaptable, so you can tackle the as-yet-undefined problems your business is sure to face. 


💡 Emerging Adaptability businesses, such as AQai, can help you assess your team’s AQ or the AQ of a potential hire. 

Prioritize adaptability training

Technology, business, and culture are all evolving at a faster pace than ever before, with no sign of slowing down. Today, a crucial metric of intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.


As an employer or manager, it’s up to you to invest in your team. Prioritize adaptability training to give your team the skills and sensibilities to not only make it through change but to thrive on it. Teams that can handle and embrace change will be able to work together to ride out storms and solve tough problems. They’ll also seek out innovative and new ways of doing things so they, as well as your business at large, will continually improve.


A flexible team means incoming or unexpected changes won’t break your business. Through adaptability training, your team will learn critical skills like flexibility, problem solving, mindfulness, and unlearning. Training can also help you assess how adaptable your team is currently, so you can focus on targeted areas that need improvement.


An investment in adaptability now will pay off in the long-run. Your team will be better prepared for whatever the future has in store, and they will see the investment you're making in them. Training and team building opportunities illustrate that a business cares about employee wellbeing, which will keep your team dedicated to your business for many years to come.


💡 Consider virtual team building activities that improve adaptability skills and help your team think about problems in new ways. 

Facilitate change with WorkPatterns

WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals — all in one place. With WorkPatterns, you can give and receive continuous feedback throughout a workplace change and facilitate clear communication between team members.


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