Business Is Change Management a load of crap?

I can guarantee that at some point in your life you have been labelled resistant to change or, even worse, a laggard! Even if it was by family member, we’ve all been there.

I can also guarantee that, were you aware of being labelled as such, you would have been defensive or even upset by this. And we all know when we’re defensive, we come up with a list of superb reasons why we do not need to change.

A now very amusing example (but probably a popular one at the time) might be not seeing the point of buying a SatNav in the 1990s because “what’s wrong with maps?”.

Another example perhaps more close to home could be “I like my hair like this. Yes, I know I’ve had the same style for 15 years, but it works for me.”

Or “yes I know there’s an upgraded version of my laptop but I like the one I’ve had for three years and it works perfectly. If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

Why indeed?

There is much to be said for understanding what works well and what should be captured and repeated. It is very easy to point out what is wrong ....and therefore what should be each of our opinions. Trouble is, we all usually think we are right and our way is best. And everyone else’s ideas are crap.

What’s wrong with sticking with things that we feel comfortable with if they fulfil their purpose? Surely that is something positive to be recognised?

When is change needed?

So how do we know when something really does need to change? Note I say something not someone. Our outputs at work are products of the systems we work within. Everything we do can be broken down into a process i.e. a series of steps, of which one leads to another and produces “something”. If what you’re producing i.e. your output is not what you want or need, then you should examine the steps you have in place.

Which of these steps is taking the process on a different path? Or are the correct steps are in place but someone is not following the correct steps? Now I know you have someone in mind when I say that (there’s always one!!). The question here is why aren’t they following the correct steps? If you can get to the bottom of this, you will likely have your answer as to why there appears to be resistance to change in this process. And don’t be precious about it. There’s a chance the process or environment YOU put in place might be crap, because let’s face it, we’re only human.

So what do you do?

Ask them. Yes, ask the complete-pain-in-the-ass employee why. The 5 Why’s is a good tool. Ask “why” to every reason they come up with - it usually takes 5 “whys” to get to the actual reason.

We are owed the opportunity to identify and raise what isn’t going well in our own business or area of work, and be the ones to suggest how to change it, AND be the ones who action it. I can guarantee that any problems with your business have already been identified and a potential solution ready and waiting by the people who are carrying out that process. Have you taken the time to ask them what the real problem is and let them solve it? (It is likely your customers also have the answer....)

Yes, let them solve it. Supervise if you need to, however don’t interfere unless they’re going the wrong way down a business or safety critical path. Have faith - they don’t want it to fail either. They care about their jobs and their clients/customers too.

How did you feel on your first day in every job you’ve had? Were you keen and enthusiastic?

I do believe that most people, go to work every day with good intentions & want to do the best job they can so that they go home feeling like they’ve contributed. We all need positive recognition for what goes well and there isn’t enough of this happening. I have found that the most difficult people at work often have been badly treated in the past which has led them to be disillusioned and critical in more recent times. They too started off enthusiastic and keen. But something happened.

Of course, people aren’t resistant to all forms of change. They initiate change in their own lives all the time. They meet a partner, they get married, they get divorced, they move house, they move country, they have children (that’s not to say they don’t regret this but suck it up princess, it’s too late now!).

Change management isn’t some mystical airy-fairy magic cure that only The Special Ones understand. We all do it. It’s simply treating your colleagues how you want to be treated. Like a human being, not a faceless step in a process.

Emma Duffy has been in Management Consulting and Change Management for over 20 years. She has worked in the public sector in the UK and Australia fixing old and antiquated processes to save money and make the public sector more efficient. She was part of the major improvements to the UK's NHS processes which saved the country millions of pounds. She will be writing more blogs for ShireWomen in the future, so watch this space!