Several past posts have referenced the fact that Continuous Improvement requires change, which can be difficult for many people. Consider that most of us react to change with a combination of fear,
uncertainty and doubt – the “FUD” factor!
Many of us also experience emotions similar to those associated with grief, which include denial, anger, and depression. To help people balance these normal emotional reactions and to avoid the frequently-associated drops in performance and morale, leaders can provide more objective and logical alternatives.
Here’s a simple mnemonic that outlines some best practices for leading change:
Logical alternatives to fear or speculation can help the team focus on the right things, such as their goals and daily tasks. Help people deal with rumors and emotional reactions to change by providing the right perspective; otherwise they might make-up their own version of reality. Create short-term goals (and wins!) for added focus.
Exemplify the right attitude and behavior. Avoid gossip and put random speculation in perspective. Leading by example is a standard best practice, especially during transitional times. Demonstrate a composed and logical reaction to change. As we all know but often forget, change is necessary for long-term success.
Acknowledgement is the first step toward acceptance. Encourage people by explaining that change may be hard to understand at first, but it is a necessary part of long-term success; help them acknowledge that the marketplace demands change, and discuss the desirable outcomes of innovation – one of our core values!
Direct people on what needs to be done. Help them to maintain normal levels of productivity, safety, quality and morale, and to continue business-as-usual; to continue meeting the requirements of our standard policies, procedures and work processes, and living-up to team, company and customer expectations.
Education and frequent communication are musts during transitional times; provide knowledge or coaching with respect to reality – i.e., why change is necessary; that it is not punitive or personal, and that it is not acceptable to slack-off during the transition – note that people who do so often regret it afterward.
Reinforcement is a necessary ingredient to acceptance, and people will require regular doses of it; remind them of past changes that have turned-out to be good after all, despite initial fears or concerns; reinforce the logical alternatives to fear or speculation (above), as well as the value of change in general.