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How to Successfully Implement Change Across Your Organization


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Whenever you try to change something, you need to be prepared for resistance. Many people become invested in the current order of things. They are comfortable, so they stick with what they know until convinced otherwise. 

In MIT’s Sloan Management Review, Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom point out that if you don’t pay attention to the emotions and political dynamics of any change effort, it might not go anywhere. So, they came up with a five-step approach for handling those variables and field-tested it in a range of industries. The basic idea is to influence people based on how receptive they are to certain change. 

You need to identify the people who have the resources, skills, or social networks to win over the hearts and minds of the larger group.

The first step is to figure out who will be affected. In the case of tracking time, that’s most likely going to be everyone. But, there are certain groups who will be affected more than others. Salaried workers might not be affected, even though in some cases you could get valuable insights from how they spend their time. Foremen, and the rank and file workers who perform the activities as a group are heavily affected. But, there are also those within these groups who aren’t affected as much as others. So, if the plan is for the foremen to track labor used on activities they oversee, others they supervise will only do it in the foreman’s absence, or when directed to by the foreman. It’s important to perform this analysis correctly because it lays the groundwork for helping people accept change if it is to better the company.

Find the Champions

With your stakeholders mapped out, it’s time to identify those who will likely champion the change. Just because a foreman is in a leadership position doesn’t mean he will favor change, or even have the influence to help champion it. You need to identify the people who “have the resources, skills, or social networks to win over the hearts and minds of the larger group," according to Auster and Ruebottom. A very effective way to identify them is to ask them. Keep it simple. Would they give it a go ahead, want it slowed down, or stop it?

When everything settles down, you’ll discover two types of people––the sponsors and the promoters. The sponsors like change, welcome it, and share with others the positive outcomes of the change. The promoters are more reserved about change, but they help create confidence that the change is in fact positive. Getting these people involved early by asking for their support and input will get you off to the best start. 

Understand the Skeptics

The people who like to slow change or stop it altogether are considered skeptics. The positive skeptics are the ones who resist the change because they think there are flaws. The negative skeptics are on the other end of the spectrum, and you need to address their concerns carefully. 

Generally, their concerns have to do with themselves, and how certain change is going to affect them. For people in charge, work with them and be sure to steer them away from any fearful or anxious state that they may be in. This requires active listening to their fears and then addressing them. You might not be able to tell them what they want to hear, but you can be open and honest about the change to help smooth the process..

Lend a Hand

The remaining group of people are often refereed to as fence-sitters. They’ll usually sit back and examine the situation because they’re afraid of moving too fast, or, they’ll just be indifferent because they don’t see the change directly affecting them. You’ll have to win these people over through the “sponsors and promoters”. Sponsors shape the story and are good at telling it from a strategic perspective. Promoters are valuable for sharing the story because they have broad influence across the company. For success, you have to take the time necessary to help people adapt. As a result, the change will be more seamless and the advantages of the change will occur sooner and with better results. 

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