Change Management Stinks (And That’s Ok)

Sep 01, 2017


At one of our company training events, someone gave a presentation on change management. She began by asking the audience to raise their hands if they liked change, and only one person complied. When she asked him why he said he liked change, he said, “Well, because I mostly don’t like the way things are.”

The opinion of that particular individual aside, most of us tend not to like change. Which turns out to be a pretty bad state of affairs if you’re responsible for change management. Loads of articles have been written explaining why change management is good for you, and how important it is. While I agree in principle, perhaps the best approach to managing change is to just treat it like the bad news everyone thinks it is. Instead of trying to change the image of change management, we can change the way we manage change management[1]Yup—that was intentionally worded that way.

Lump Bad News Together

Whatever changes are going to happen, make sure you list them upfront and all at the same time. Don’t continue to dribble out more ways that things are going to change, because it’s just going to keep the wound fresh.

Acknowledge Their Pain

No matter how great your change will be in the long run, there’s going to be some short-term pain. By mentioning them up front, you at least make it known that you have considered the difficulties the team will endure. And, if those bad things don’t come to fruition, everyone will be pleasantly surprised, giving you (gasp!) a bit of good news amidst the bad.

Tell Them What’s In It For Them

Make it clear that the new way is going to be so much better in the long run than the old way. If you can’t paint this picture, then consider why you’re even bothering to make the change. There has to be a good news story somewhere in there.

Let Them Contribute

Change is hard enough without it being completely mandated and designed by someone else. Where possible, let the team be a part of the solution so they feel more ownership and control over the change—at least the parts that affect them the most. If big decisions need to be made for business reasons, try to find some smaller details that you’re willing to let the team influence.

Give Them Time

Bad news can take a while to overcome. While you may not always be able to dictate the timing of the changes coming, you can certainly be understanding and forgiving during the transition. Just because the change should theoretically make things better, doesn’t mean it is going to feel better to the team right away.

By managing change like the bad news that it is, you can actually make it feel less painful during the transition. And if your team consists exclusively of people who “mostly don’t like things the way they are” anyway, consider yourself lucky!

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