New York Times best-selling author Susan Powter once said, “The habits that took years to build do not take a day to change.” This can be said about virtually any type of change: eating patterns, exercise routines, adopting a new software system, and of course, changing habits in the workplace. Successful change management efforts take time, resources, and effort, but if you follow it through your chances of successful increase significantly.
If there is change on the horizon at your organization, now is the time to brush up and refine your approach to change management. To help you do so, here are three change management best practices to follow:
1. Communicate Early
The more time individuals have to prepare for an upcoming change, the less disruptive it will be. Although it might be unavoidable to have some disruption, if you follow this change management best practice as best as you possible, you have the opportunity to generate enthusiasm and overcome any objections that might come up. Effective communication early on can also help grow conviction by minimizing the inevitable anxiety that people will feel knowing that there is a change on the horizon.
Clearly outline the following information to ensure that every individual is as prepared as possible:
- The benefit the change will have on the organization
- When the change will occur
- The reason for the change
- Who in the organization will be impacted
- The new behavior patterns you expect to see
- What is expected from each individual
- The person or people individuals can go to with questions and feedback
Provide as much detail as you can, in an organized manner, to set the stage for making the transition as smooth as possible.
2. Communicate Often
Most individuals need to hear or read new information multiple times before it truly sinks in, especially if it involves changing behavior that has been ingrained for years. Don’t expect to see dramatic results after you send a comprehensive e-mail or one-day of change management training. Regular communication is essential for implementing a lasting change, and if you do it well, you can make the change feel almost seamless because the information is disseminated in ripples, rather than in a big wave.
Some ways to communicate often are:
- Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly status updates, depending on the type and length of the initiative
- Ongoing training events with retention activities in between
- “Town Hall” style meetings for question and answer sessions
3. Communicate Well
Change management is a process that requires more than just delivering information and hoping it sticks. The best change leaders know that communication is a two-way street; it includes receiving feedback and answering questions. By allowing enough time for individuals to process the new information and providing consistent updates, you not only give them a chance to absorb the changes to come, but you also have the opportunity to make the process better.
Use communication tools that are designed to encourage free flowing conversation and feedback:
- Focus groups: Bring together groups of 5-7 people from different levels and functions to capture how they feel about the changes and new processes.
- Surveys: Provide individuals with an opportunity to give honest feedback through an online survey. They may share ideas or feelings which they aren’t comfortable coming forward with otherwise.
- One-on-one meetings: Take time to meet with individuals in an informal setting to ask insightful questions about how they feel the change is working.
When people ask questions they may bring new issues to light, allowing you to act on them before the changes are implemented. Without an open ear for feedback, you will not only miss out on that valuable contribution, but you also decrease the likelihood of individual buy-in.
Do you see a trend starting to emerge here? Communication is the linchpin in the list of change management best practices. Do it early, do it often, and do it well to successfully lead change at your organization.