AFTER THOUGHT : Challenges of change management

We are about to undergo major change process in our company. I have worked for other organisations during similar changes and always end up thinking there must be better way of doing it. What are your thoughts on change management?

Change has been with us since the beginning of time. It is caused by many things and can happen either externally or internally. For example, externally there can be change in the economy, customer wants, supplier availability, and competitive activity. Internally there may be need to restructure the organisation or rearrange the mix of skills or implement new systems.
The biggest issue for implementation is getting people to accept and go with the required changes. To do this they need to understand why the change is needed, how it will be implemented, what progress is being made, and, later, whether it actually worked.
Underlying this, people will want to know, “How will the planned change affect me?” You must communicate very clearly the reason for the change and what the planned stages of the change project are. It is good idea to deliberately build in some short term wins into the project plan to demonstrate early that the change process is working and worth engaging with. It is really helpful if you can get your managers to discuss the planned changes early with their teams, to seek ideas and to listen to their concerns, hopes, and fears.
The actual implementation is the next key issue for people. You basically need to choose the most capable resource available to do this. Try to choose people who will personally gain from the experience of being involved. They will be highly motivated and will continue to bed in the change long after the project has ended. Make sure that the change team has project manager and clear project plan with measurable timeframes and outcomes.
The third key point for successful organisational change is to make sure you ‘hardwire’ the end result. That is, ensure that updated systems and processes are designed and implemented that support the change outcomes. This will ensure the change stays on track and doesn’t revert.
Change is not something human beings like, especially if it happens often. Resistance can build up. person once told me they had experienced 18 restructurings in 15 years. Needless to say they just ignored the latest call for change in their company. Don’t let that happen to you.

I am frustrated with my career development in the organisation I work for. I have been seeking promotion into more senior role but there aren’t enough to go around because our structure is so flat. I have looked at roles in other companies but they are all just the same with limited upwards opportunity. What can I do?

The traditional view of career development has tended to be ‘promotion’ upwards in an organisation into management role and then into bigger management roles with more responsibility. Finally ‘making it’ as chief executive. The rewards being status, money, and challenge.
However, time has moved on. In the ’80s and ’90s the world, and New Zealand, experienced major change and transformation. Management layers were removed and more accountability was placed on the frontline with resulting gains in quality, innovation, and engagement. People’s career expectations changed due to higher levels of education and the growing demand for work/life balance. The outcome is workforce that has higher expectations of flexibility and stronger desire to self manage lives and careers. The result is flatter organisation structures, reduction in the number of management positions available, and ‘traditional’ career expectations not able to be met.
That said, personal development remains important and needs to cover three things. Your current role, your next role, and your long-term aspirations.
In today’s environment you need to take responsibility for your own development and not wait for someone to do it for you. Make sure you have at least one monthly meeting with your manager or supervisor and discuss what is going well/not so well in your job. Then use this to actively identify areas for development that will enhance your effectiveness in your current role. Also work out for yourself what your next step is – this is where mentor can often be very helpful. Then seek support from your manager for development towards this. For example, this may take the form of going to conference, doing course, or being seconded to work in another area of the company for while.
Finally think through your long-term aspirations and put these on the table in your discussions with your manager. You will be amazed at how others will willingly support and help you if you take the lead.
So, in nutshell, the world has changed. Structures are flat and there is less room for upwards movement through promotion. That is fact. However, there is huge opportunity for enriching your work and your career if you take the lead role in managing your own development.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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