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The 3 most common change management problems

by Allison Adams
 
Change is inevitable. But it’s not always going to be easy.

Change is a healthy and a vital part of any organization. No matter how successful you may be, there’s always something you could be doing better—whether it’s improving a product, optimizing a process, or offering more dynamic service. And this sort of attitude, constantly looking to improve, is a healthy one. Organizations that rest on their laurels often end up stagnating and falling behind their more nimble competitors.

However, change can also be quite difficult. No matter how big or small the change, you will encounter roadblocks along the way. Over the past 11 years, I’ve worked with a number of retail clients on process transformation, and time and time again, the same problems and issues keep popping up. Let’s take a look at three of these hurdles to change, and how to best get over them.

Organizations that rest on their laurels often end up stagnating and falling behind their more nimble competitors.

Employee resistance

Resistance to change often starts within middle management, as they’re concerned primarily with how the change affects their particular department, rather than looking at the change holistically. This attitude can also extend to workers themselves, who are often comfortable with the status quo and wary of what a change might mean for them and their workday. Even after a change has been implemented, this resistance can continue, especially if workers feel the change has resulted in unwanted work or responsibilities—or even threatened their job.

Overcoming this particular hurdle requires a multifaceted approach that includes:


  • Transparency: Workers want to know why a change is being made, not just the benefits the change will provide. Acknowledging problems and explaining how this change is intended to solve them can help people understand the reasoning for the change, and to get them on board.
  • Training: As mentioned previously, an effective training program is vital, especially when introducing new technologies.
  • Management & executive involvement: Workers want to see that leadership is invested in the change and there is a clear plan in place to administer this change and respond to their concerns.
  • Communication: Every change management plan should include a focus on clear, consistent communications across multiple channels that allow for engagement and a back-and-forth between workers and management.

Communication issues

Speaking of communications, this is where many organizations seem to stumble. While being experts on marketing themselves to the world, many organizations struggle to communicate with their employees. Often, this means too few communications, too few channels, and too few stakeholders communicating with employees.
 

This is an issue that should be planned far in advance of the change. A wholescale communications plan should be a part of any significant change within an organization, and should cover the months leading up to change as well as an ongoing engagement plan for the months afterward. Over communication is the least of your worries here. Determine a communications schedule ahead of time that includes the channels you’ll be using: email, intranet, mail, even collaboration tools like an electronic whiteboard. And be sure not to neglect in-person communications.

Also, don’t forget the importance of engagement in your communications. Change management should be a conversation with employees, rather than a lecture. Give employees avenues to share their concerns, and then address those concerns regularly, not just as a one-off thing. Take a lesson from Mark Zuckerberg1, who hosts a Q&A with all Facebook employees every Friday.

Take a holistic view of your organization

Get started with a major organizational change that will set you on the right path for the future.
 

Implementing new technologies

Few problems cause as many headaches for workers during a workplace change as does implementing new technologies. Often trumpeted as the latest and greatest, workers can find their entire workflow has changed as a result of these new technologies. And, because the cost of these new technologies can be prohibitive, there is often pressure to get them up and running as quickly as possible.

To combat these problems and to avoid the 70 percent failure rate, according to Harvard Business Review2, of most change management initiatives, care must be taken to begin the process of switching over to the new technology weeks or months ahead of time. Workers on the ground should have access to multiple training opportunities that will familiarize themselves with the technology long before they’re asked to do it in their day-to-day jobs. The Harvard Business Review also suggests getting a “network of champions” to promote the new technology, to act as on-the-ground advocates that can answer questions, assist with problems, and promote the benefits of the new technology.

Change can be hard, but is often a catalyst for future growth within an organization.
 
Allison Adams
Allison Adams, Principal Consultant for the Ricoh USA, Inc. Consulting Services’ Business Process Agility Group, has more than 11 years experience as a consultant executing strategic process transformation for customers within retail industries. She focuses on providing the highest value to customers’ businesses through knowledge management, and has been instrumental in the development and implementation of various business process improvement initiatives.
 
 
1 Zuckerberg, Mark. Facebook.com. 30 October 2014.
2 Ashkenas, Ron. "Change management needs to change." Harvard Business Review. 16 April 2013.