Friday, 27 February 2015

Intelligent change.

You have heard it said that '...a change is as good as a rest...'  And if things have truly become stale, then this adage holds true.

But change, simply for the sake of change, can have a disquieting impact on the workplace.  This is especially true when the change becomes too frequent. Let me explain.

Often leaders have strokes of genius that they are convinced will enhance the workplace performance.  They set about to implement these ideas without due process and in so doing they ignore the emotional investment that their staff have in the status quo.  Like it or not, routine appeals to most people and there is a sense of safety and comfort in always doing things the same way each day.  So much of life is unpredictable, thus the consistency that the workplace typically affords provides that stability that people seek. 

In times of crisis - such as those that we have experienced over the past several years - there is clearly a need for change.  Budgets are adjusted, often the workforce is reduced, and a general sense of uneasiness pervades the work environment.  As the leader, a critical responsibility is to create order from the chaos and to maintain that safe haven in which your staff are able to perform to their best.

If staff reductions will be necessary, then make them wisely but quickly.  And try to do them all at once.  This will provide several benefits to all:
  1. It allows for the re-structuring and re-distribution of responsibilities to take place only one time.  This saves time and emotional distress as you move to the new normal.
  2. As painful as it is for all concerned, those who remain can adjust with a certainty that they are safe from further re-structuring and therefore they make a deeper and more thankful commitment to the job.
  3. Your external stakeholders - suppliers and clients - can adjust to the new structure with like confidence and commitment.  Too often we neglect to consider the impact to these partners because we view our changes to be internal only.
  4. Finally it reinforces your credibility and that of the company.  It demonstrates that you have prudently evaluated your options and that you have done the right thing for the company and the right thing by the employees.  If you have not done your due diligence and require frequent changes, your credibility will have been sacrificed.  There is a reason that carpenters measure twice and cut once!
Understand that I am not against change.  It is the hallmark of progressive and innovative companies.  But ensure that you have properly anticipated the wide ranging impact that any change has and be prepared to be accountable for your decisions.

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