Guidelines for leading change

Guidelines for leading change


Why do people resist change – how do I work through resistance?

Most of us are more comfortable with what we know and can see change as threatening. The main reason people resist change is where they perceive change will disrupt their ‘comfort zone’ and potentially threaten to take away things they consider important such as; job security, their sense of being successful, their future prospects, money, quality of life [e.g. change in shift work patterns], work relationships etc. From your point of view, employees who have these concerns are likely to be less productive, less engaged and to actively consider options to protect their current situation up to and including leaving the business.

Set out below are a number of the reasons people resist change and suggestions on how you may be able to overcome these challenges so that your team members accept and support the need for change.

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Tools to help you manage change - a flexible change process

To understand the impact of change and then plan a successful change process you are provided with two tools. The  Change Impact Assessment  tool, helps you identify the impact of the proposed change on groups or individuals and to evaluate what needs to be done to get them ‘over the line’.  Next use the Change Plan to help you plan successful change. These tools:

  • Advocate early involvement of employees in your change efforts to “create a climate for change”.
  • Recognise that ‘people in the front lines’ know a lot about how things are done there (often more than senior managers) and can contribute usefully to finalising any proposed change.
  • Must be applied keeping in mind our legal obligations in regards consultation and involvement.
  • Can be adapted for large or smaller scale change.
  • Can be streamlined for simple and uncontroversial change or fully developed where resistance to change is expected to be high.
First, assess the impact of the change you propose

Change Impact Assessment Tool

The  Change Impact Assessment  tool allows you to evaluate, at an individual level, the potential impact of the change you are contemplating and what needs to be in your implementation plan. The better you understand how people will potentially be affected and how they may react the better you are able to plan a successful change process. It walks you through a process of identifying; who will be affected? How will they be impacted? What will their likely reaction be? What do you want their ultimate reaction to be? What will best help them change in the way you would like them to?

Change Planning Tool

Your  Change Impact Assessment  will give you clear insight into the impact change will have on various individuals and groups. It will help you understand what the challenges are and where resistance is most likely to come from. With that information, you are ready to plan your change process using the Change Plan Tool. Research has shown that successful change plans require you to think about eight stages of change and that there are typical traps and risks at each stage of the process.

Our legal rights and obligations

Where change has the potential to impact people’s job content, responsibilities or may result in their job being disestablished they have a degree of legal protection. This is recognised in our process for handling restructuring or redundancy.  A summary of our legal rights and obligations in relation to restructuring, re-organization and change that impacts people’s jobs is set out below. However, every situation is different and the law is evolving all the time. Before you make the decision to begin a restructuring and redundancy exercise, discuss your plans with both your manager and HR.

  • Employers Have the right to restructure:  NZ case law clearly establishes that we have the right to restructure provided the reason for the restructure is genuine and provided the process applied is fair.  As a rule of thumb, you can make change to a team member’s duties and responsibilities, which do not fundamentally change its content, or terms and conditions of employment provided there has been a degree of prior consultation.
  • We need a ‘genuine’ reason:  your reason for restructuring must genuinely be for the benefit of our business as opposed to a way to punish, disadvantage or dismiss a team member.  Poor performance is not a reason for change.
  • Our approach must be ‘procedurally fair’:  the elements of procedural fairness that must be present when you restructure including making redundancies are:
    • Consultation: You must genuinely and meaningfully consult with employees directly affected before determining changes that significantly impact their role or disestablish that role. This means providing sufficient information for them to understand the proposals, providing a genuine opportunity for input and a genuine effort to accommodate feedback received.
    • Selection criteria and process: where you are selecting for redundancy the criteria you use must be relevant, communicated, contestable and as objective as possible. You must also ensure that the process is fair and that you seek feedback on the criteria and selection process when you consult on the change.
    • Redeployment options: Wherever possibleBigApple will try to identify alternative options for ongoing employment (redeployment).  Generally, you should be able to show that redeployment options were considered as an alternative to redundancy.
    • Redundancy compensation: may be payable if employment agreements commitBigApple to redundancy compensation.
    • Employee Representation: The team member, whether or not they are a member of a union, has a right to professional representation.
    • Notice: The notice period for redundancy is outlined in the relevant employment agreement.  Typically, you have the right to ask the team member to work out the notice or pay them in lieu of notice.
Talking to people about proposed change that affects them

You will need to talk ‘one on one’ with people about proposed changes that impact them. Use the Conversation Plan– talking about change to help you prepare for the conversation. The preparation notes below explain the various stages of the conversation while the template itself allows you to draft the particular conversation you wish to have.  Note: If the change has any degree of complexity, it is recommended that you put the proposal in writing so the team member(s) can reflect on it and take advice if they wish to. 

Conversation plan – Preparation notes

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Be aware of the effects of change on you as a manager

Some types of change, such as restructuring, or downsizing can put considerable strain on the leaders of an organisation.

Manage your stress

Because you have obligations to your team not only do you have to deal with their stress but you also need to recognise the impact the change process, and some of the decisions you may need to make, are having on you. Stress is part of your job, but in times of change, it is critical that you recognise that it may cause you to act in ways that are less effective than usual.  As with anything connected with change, the major concern is not short term but long term.  If your stress levels result in marked loss of effectiveness, the risk is that a cycle will be set up, where ineffective leadership results in creating more long-term problems, which increases your stress, which reduces your effectiveness even more.  Advice: where you feel yourself under more pressure than you feel able to manage immediately talk to your manager, or HR.

Avoidance – A common response

A common response to the need to make unpleasant change is to ignore the situation.  Avoidance can take many forms.  Most commonly, the avoiding manager plays only a minimal role in moving the organisation through the swamp.  After announcing the change and doing the minimum required, the manager “hides” from the change, through delegation, or attending to other work.  This tactic involves treating things as “business as usual”.

The outcomes of this tactic can be devastating for the change process and for the manager concerned.  By avoiding situations, the manager abdicates any leadership role, when staff needs it most, during and after significant change.  In addition, the avoidance results in the manager becoming out of touch with the people and realities of the organisation.

Such avoidance will typically destroy your credibility and result in poor decisions. The long-term consequence of such action is that your team tends to deteriorate in terms of morale, effectiveness and productivity.  Sometimes this deterioration is irreversible. Advice: if you feel yourself avoiding taking the appropriate role in your teams change process you need to reengage fast. Revisit your change plan to get clear on what you should be doing. Get advice or support from your manager or HR. They can help but you must lead.

Another ineffective tactic

The denying manager tends to refuse to understand “what the big deal is”, and shows little empathy with employees in the organisation.

As with avoidance, the denying tactic tends to drop your credibility and destroy any personal loyalty on the part of your team.  Advice: if this is you, revisit your Change Plan.  Remind your self of the case for change and consequences of not changing. Discuss any concerns you have with your manager and get back in the game.