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The Three Es For Seamless Change Implementation
Tue 25th October 2011
Each of the examples above were reactions to huge changes, not just little modifications or improvements, but world-changing events where sound, established ideas were overhauled by new thinking. With all of the technological advancements of recent years, change is more frequent, but less ground-breaking. Common changes today come when a new version of an existing program or machine has been released and employees need to be trained in its use.
Even minor changes must be implemented with care and consideration for your team. Here then is my three Es program for effective change implementation, one each for before, during and after the changes have been made.
Explain the need
People can be very suspicious of changes made within the workplace. Changes are often made to improve efficiency and there are those who will interpret this as streamlining, which they equate to job cuts. It is important to explain in detail exactly why the changes you are about to implement are necessary.
The communication skills you demonstrated on your way up to a managerial position will be called upon here, because workers who are about to undergo the upheaval of having their routine broken deserve a face-to-face explanation. You might feel that you can express yourself better typing to a faceless monitor, but news of change should not be delivered by email (or worse again, the dreaded text message). Notifying employees electronically will only cause them to group together and ask each other questions, when they should be asking you.
Ease the concerns
It is a fact of life that people become set in their ways. I'm sure there are many among you who have become accustomed to a particular application or a computer game and when a new version came out, it felt strange and unfamiliar and you failed to see that it was any improvement on the original. The recent revamp of Facebook, which was hugely unpopular with its users, serves as a good example of how sensitive people can be when faced with changes to an established set up.
It is imperative that your team members do not feel undue apprehension over changes that are about to be made. You should make it clear that there will be a support system in place to deal with any of their concerns (and after you have relayed this news you must ensure that the support is there when needed). Be sure that all training programs and workshops are adequate and not diluted or rushed. A hastily trained operator who can't remember a procedure, or who presses a wrong button could cost more than the efficiency measures brought in by the changes would save.
Evaluate the change
You've explained the need for the change and you have put your team through an extensive training programme so they can deal with it. Now they can get on with making the whole operation more efficient while you move on to other matters. This is not a good idea.
The actual implementation of change is only half the battle; there needs to be a system of aftercare to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the new order. It will be your responsibility to check that the changes have been absorbed into the routine and everything is running smoothly.
Monitor the situation both during and after the change has been implemented. Check productivity rates, but bear in mind that this will probably show a dip as your team members adapt to something new and alien to them. When your team has had time to get used to the changes, find out how they feel about it. Run a brief survey to get their views on the changes and, when talking to team members individually, be sure to ask them how they are dealing with the new measures that were introduced. Analyse this feedback to see if it reveals any teething troubles, or bigger problems.
The thread that runs through all of the points above is that change should be implemented gradually and with care. With a full explanation of why the change is needed and a thorough training and support programme, you should be able to implement change almost seamlessly and without causing irritation to your team. And finally, in relation to the world changing events of my first paragraph, I leave you with this question. Before the invention of the electric light bulb, what appeared above someone's head when they had an idea?
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