Survival Tactics for Managing Change in your Organisation

Leader going through change details with team

by Bryan Hyland, Commercial Director at Morgan McKinley

As most managers will know, building change capability, implementing and managing change in your organisation can be tricky. It needs to be managed in a way that the changes are adopted by your employees, while also keeping your people engaged.

Clarence Darrow once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”

Although your business may have implemented many changes over the years, there are multiple stages that an individual goes through before they arrive at the acceptance stage of any change.

Individuals go through a rollercoaster of emotions during change and the following list outlines further the impact to the individual during each stage.

The impact of change

  • The initial situation preceding the announcement of the change is neutral and represents the status quo.
  • Immobilisation – they are feeling a little out of control.
  • Denial – the change is rejected or people try and ignore it.
  • Anger/Hurt/Frustration – the result of shock, as those facing unwanted change are disorientated and confused. Needless to say productivity drops at this stage.
  • Bargaining – this is the stage when individuals realise that the change cannot be avoided, so they start to minimise the negative impact. This is the start of acceptance of the change.
  • Depression – individuals may feel a sense of resignation, possibly helplessness in the face of the change. This can lead to low levels of energy and disinterest in the job. Emotionally, this phase is where the full negative impact of the change is recognised and accepted and this helps the process of moving on.
  • Regaining control – comes through testing acknowledging the new way of working, while pushing the boundaries of what is allowed – leading to the discovery of how to be successful under the new regime.
  • Acceptance – this doesn’t necessarily mean that individuals like the situation but they accept and start to settle into a new form of normality.

Typical barriers to change

In addition to understanding the phases an individual goes through during change, it’s also worthwhile acknowledging the typical barriers to change so that you can overcome obstacles/objections along the way:

  • Too stable – people are happy with the status quo.
  • Technology – do you have the right technology to support the change?
  • Systems/bureaucracy – will your current processes align with the change process?
  • Too successful – if you are successful doing things a certain way, why would you   change?
  • Failure in the past – similar changes were made unsuccessfully in the past.
  • Fear – what happens if the change has a negative effect?
  • Lack of understanding – why do we need to change?
  • Insecurity – can we cope with this change?
  • Comfort zone – we are comfortable the way we are.

Some individuals will reach the acceptance stage sooner than others; don’t fall into the trap of misjudging questions as resistance to the change, and never underestimate your employees ability to accept and understand the change!

Kotter’s 8 step model for change

For anyone managing change in their organisation, I would recommend following ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Model for Change’ to enable successful implementation and to achieve greater “buy-in” from your team.

  • Establish a sense of urgency 
  • Form a powerful guiding coalition (Team)
  • Create a vision (Believe) 
  • Communicate that vision
  • Empower others to act (Delegate)
  • Create short-term wins (Influence)
  • Consolidate improvements
  • Don’t let up! 
  • Make change stick!

That’s a very brief overview of the stages of change, and a few pointers on how to manage it in any organisation.