Adapting to change: Probortunity or Opportunity?

By Jessica Bailey, Managing director of Changetoolbox

Are we thought leaders of change, in a forward-thinking business? Do we see the Probortunity and take advantage of each problem and make it an Opportunity?

With business climate as it is today, it’s true to say that most businesses don’t really have a choice as to whether or not to implement change; the well-known ‘flight or fight’ response to change isn’t much of an option anymore, as businesses that choose not to move with the times or adapt to keep up with, yet alone ahead of the competition are most likely to be left behind! So, can we successfully manage the perception of change in the workplace?

Despite change being so prevalent in our working lives, why is it so many businesses still struggle with implementing change? For most, they have or are going through some form of change in an effort to overcome pain-points suffered by many or all, from the board right down to entry-level. Yet, in many cases, managers and leaders aren’t equipped to manage these changes.

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Let me share with you some of the most common reactions to change when change is on the business agenda:

  • Avoidance of change: Divorce from those involved in change and ignores what’s happening
  • Resistance to change: Lack of engagement with those whom are part the change and offer little or no input
  • Maintaining old habits: It’s easier to keep doing what you know, like and feel comfortable and confident with
  • Behaviours in the workplace: Manifest as passive & unsupportive, potentially negative and disruptive
  • Culture: Holding on tight to the past
Jessica Bailey Managing Director at Changetoolbox
Jessica Bailey Managing Director at Changetoolbox

The majority of businesses will need to formulate plans and manage these reactions, taking into account any problems that arise and using them as an opportunity to introduce and embrace change! It’s important too to identify where people are emotionally within the change curve, because not everyone is at the same place at the same time; so, step back, be realistic with how much time is needed to adopt and adapt to your planned business changes.

One simple way to conceptualise change and how it may affect your people, is through a ‘Transition curve’, like one introduced by Ralph Lewis and Chris Parker in 1981. This model identifies the emotional impact that those going through change may experience, from feeling overwhelmed, feeling in denial, frustrated, struggling with the acceptance of reality, finding new ways to deal with reality, seeking to understand & effectively integrating with the changes.

Here are some insights to think about, prepare and plan for and to enable the introduction of change in a positive and constructive way:

  • What’s the bigger picture: Why do you need to change, what are your business goals and objectives? Do these changes fit with your business values and stakeholder expectations?
  • Communication: Every time this is right up there, so be clear and strong about who, when, why and what it is you are messaging, don’t get out of step, create a process that accounts for all forms of communication
  • Secret rooms: When change is in its early stages, don’t let your planning be mistaken for secrets behind closed doors, be transparent at every opportunity
  • Inclusivity or exclusivity: Be a leader of change and let your stakeholders feel part of the change; be an inclusive business and make the most of your talent within and embrace change together
  • Wearing more than one hat: Don’t over-estimate the difficulties forced upon business professionals when they are both ‘part of change’ and ‘leaders of change’ be flexible and supportive
  • Tools of the trade: Many change tools are available, try something like a SCOT analysis, weighing up your business Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities and Threats to navigate your way through

There are many models of change that every business can identify with and chose to follow, and by seeking the right expertise and trusted tools this will help to plan and prepare your business in readiness for change. It’s also wise to remember that people who have previously been through some form of change, may still experience some emotional challenges or perhaps some may adapt much quicker. Either way plan in some form of support and flexibility for those who will touch shoulders with the changes you propose to implement in your business.

Here are some change quotes from past and present thought leaders:

  • To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction – Winston Churchill
  • Without short-term wins, too many employees give up or actively join the resistance – John P Kotter
  • If you don’t take your people with you on the journey of change, don’t be surprised when they arrive at a different destination – Jessica J Bailey

We should not be in any doubt that implementing change will bring with it the unexpected, the unwelcome and potentially an abundance of pain-points to manage, but change applied in the right way, in the right direction and aligned to business values, with your stakeholders engaged is a journey for the taking; this in part is what makes change such an exciting opportunity for committed forward thinking professionals who chose to lead change from the front.

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