Tag Archives: how to manage change

Tips for Managing Change


As the year winds down and the New Year approaches, many organizations will be formulating strategic plans.

Naturally, just like all improvement plans, these New Year plans will involve a necessary but most often unpopular component — change!

While change is not always perceived as being good, without change comes stagnation and potential loss. Examples include: Converse in sneakers or Kodak and Polaroid in photography, Blockbuster, Blackberry, and so many more… each experiencing significant declines in market share (or worse!) as competitors introduced new and improved, lower-cost alternatives.

The first step in any change effort is to help people develop the right mental attitude and understand that change is a constant part of long-term success.

Here are a few tips that might help people develop a better attitude toward change or a heightened “readiness” to change:

  • Plan ahead. If you know change is on the horizon, do some prep work. …
  • Reframe your thinking. Figure out what’s going on in your mind when you’re feeling sad or anxious, and break negative patterns.
  • Recognize that improvement or change is not an indictment of the current way but rather a never-ending search for a better way.
  • Take time to reflect. Is my “resistance” putting my career in jeopardy? Am I being overly stubborn? Am I afraid to try?
  • Strive to maintain some normalcy/routine.
  • Take a long term view. Sure, a new process or procedure will feel foreign at the start, but how will it feel six months from now? Next year?
  • Test yourself! Look at upcoming change as a challenge; remember that we tend to learn the most when we step outside of our comfort zone!
  • Recognize that it is a lot easier to change when you “can” rather than when you “must”

Increasing the Desire to Change

head in the sand

Our previous post noted that Continuous Improvement involves change and that, in a high percentage of cases, people tend to resist change. A past post also recognized this fact, and shared a popular change management method known as ADKAR, which is an acronym representing five steps for making successful changes:

  • Acknowledgement
  • Desire
  • Knowledge
  • Ability
  • Reinforcement

Despite the hopes of many, simply getting people to “acknowledge” the need for change has not proved to be sufficient for brining about the “desire” to change. Fortunately, there are things that organizational leaders can do to motivate people to accept change or to increase people’s desire to change.

During a recent discussion with Continuous Improvement leaders, various approaches to the motivational component of change management were shared. Some of the key points made include:

  • Financial enticements or rewards did not necessarily produce the best results.
  • Recognition of desired behaviors exhibited by some can increase motivation for change in others; however, timeliness and making the recognition public are important factors.
  • Peer-recognition programs often increase people’s desire to change.
  • Communication is a critical component of successful change, and the recommendations for daily conversations about progress and achievement during change initiatives were unanimous.
  • Motivation for change is often easier to achieve if leaders shift their focus beyond individual measurement and instead focus on group or system achievements. As Deming said, over 90% of problems are caused by the system not the person.
  • Frequent communication about what an organization needs greatly increases the odds that people will be more motivated to implement and accept change.

5 Steps for Managing Change

ADKAR change model

Recent posts have focused on various aspects of the rapid pace of change that permeates our world, our lives and businesses.

And while people generally accept the fact that change is, in fact, a constant and necessary factor, most of us struggle with applying the logic. Instead, we tend to resist change.

One way leaders can better manage the process of helping people deal with change is the Prosci ADKAR® Model, which is a goal-oriented approach to change management for individuals and organizations.

The ADKAR® Model was created by Jeff Hiatt, founder of Prosci, a change management solutions provider. It is an acronym that represents the five “tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change.”

These outcomes or steps are:

  • Awareness of why change is necessary
  • Desire or a willingness to support the change (often requires steps 3-5)
  • Knowledge of how the change will be made
  • Ability to apply or work within the change, possibly through skill development
  • Reinforcement to help make the change stick

This approach has proved to be an effective way for leaders to both facilitate change and support team members (and possibly themselves!) throughout the process.

Be a “LEADER” to Facilitate Change

fudSeveral 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.

Leadership & Change

changeContinuing on the theme of “managing change,” it is important to recognize that change does not “just happen.” Instead it takes place when leaders at all levels see opportunities and get others to share their passion about what can be accomplished.

Strong leaders provide the initial and ongoing energy for change. Without strong leadership, most change efforts will fail. Making speeches or presentations, declaring a new mission or vision and handing out short-term rewards alone will not cut it; management must advocate, lead and support change.

People will only follow leaders if they trust them, if they see the need for change, if they believe change will benefit “all” parties, and if they are involved in creating the change.

In addition to strong leadership, sustained change is brought about by a combination of human relations systems, beliefs, values and cultural practices. They are the true catalysts to sustained change and improvement.

Thinking that people will make profound changes in their thinking and behavior after just a one-time training class or multi-day workshop is not realistic.

Leaders must get personally involved in sponsoring, leading and implementing change.


The Most Common Questions About Change?

changeSeveral previous posts have focused on the importance of change, and on the fact that effective leadership is about driving change. The ability to anticipate, lead and manage change is a critical indicator of organizational success and is a necessary component of continuous improvement.

But, as we’ve also noted, people tend to resist change. It is uncomfortable, and tends to bring about varying degrees of fear, uncertainty and doubt – or, as noted in a recent post, a range of challenging emotions.

A heightened awareness of the “normal” reactions to change can help leaders more easily manage change and lead people toward acceptance in less time. For example, when a major change is initiated it is common for members of the workforce think or wonder:

  • The way we’ve always done it is fine… why do we need to change?
  • Why wasn’t I consulted?
  • Why do I need to change my way of doing things?
  • What have I done wrong? I’ve done nothing wrong!
  • How will this affect me…?
  • They don’t know what they’re doing!
  • This will never work…
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • Will I be able to adapt/fit in?

Recognizing that the above-listed questions are more the rule rather than the exception, leaders and managers might be able to address the true concerns of their workforce and implement change and improvement initiatives more efficiently.

We will share additional thoughts on leading and managing change in our next post… in the meantime, maybe you would like to share some success stories about how your organization has been able to effectively present and manage change?