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Everyone is placed in situations that require changing their lifestyle, thought patterns and job environment. For some these changes happen regularly. For some they happen rarely. But one thing is for sure, change ALWAYS causes stress at varying levels. Handled correctly it can be made a pleasure and a source of personal and group pride. The current surge in professional change management in companies requires some careful consideration as to the effects of that stress on the individuals and their organization.
Our world has created impressive changes over the past 50 years. The resultant stresses are causing serious mental and physical health issues that in turn translate into huge economic cost at personal, business and government levels. By handling the PERCEPTION of the change properly, a great deal of needless anxiety and serious consequences can be avoided. The perception of change and its expected outcomes must be understood by the individual at an unconscious level in order for the stresses to be reduced to a minimum. This is a very different process to presenting the need for change only at a conscious level and expecting the individual’;s memory and values system to accept it.
The perception that personal change is different to organizational change is erroneous. Both have the same effect if handled wrongly, but quite an organization behaves in exactly the same way as an individual undergoing change. The only real difference is that in personal change the stress arises from conflict between ill informed parts of the mind, while stress in organizational change is derived from conflicts between parts of the organization (other minds). Where both parts conflict at a personal level and parts conflict at an organizational level occur, very serious consequences will be displayed.
In both situations the Values System of the individual parts needs to be recognized and in some cases modified before stress levels due to change can be reduced. Using very advanced techniques of modality evaluation, we can now identify possible conflicts before a change in time is put into place, reducing the potential for disharmony and personal stress. The economic benefits of this become apparent when you consider the real cost of illness and staff turnover of an organization.
Handling of both personal change and organizational change needs to consider the individuals in a change process as individuals. This involves understanding a number of factors including:
o Values systems
o Ability – technical and learning
o Previous history of change
o Reaction to historical change
o Perception of proposed change
o Perception of work collections
o Perception of the individuals place in the organization
o Ability to integrate technology change
o Assessing the inherent culture of an organization points not only to the historical development of the organization, but also to the management style and social interaction in place.
The second most important component of handling change includes an assessment of:
o What extra commercial risks are introduced through the change.
o The real need for change to occur
o The speed with which change needs to occur
o Based on the past history and expectations of staff, will the change be seen as positive or negative from their point of view?
o Does the change involve technology upgrades that will require higher skill sets?
o Does the staff expected to integrate the technology change have the capacity to do so?
o Will effective training staff be available to transfer skills required?
o Will the company or organization provide the resources to ensure the education process required by individuals PRIOR to change being implemented?
Given an understanding of these factors, a good change manager will be able to develop a highly effective custom program to implement any kind of change. This applies wherever the change is implemented by a therapist on a personal level, or a manager on an organizational level.
In an organization each level, from senior management through to support staff must be evaluated for their ability to implement and solidify changes required. Often, management recognize the fact that "something" is going wrong, but have no idea how to fix the problem. Experience shows that this level is so engrossed in the day to day running of the business from a technical and corporate governance perspective, they ignore the fact that the organizational organism is made up of people.
It is a mistake to believe that individuals can just "role with the punches" and accept any change foisted upon them. It is also a mistake to try to use hard sell techniques to convey the need for change. These techniques do not work and never have. Those people may have broadly varying value systems and the resultant conflict creates high levels of anxiety, anger and depression in organizations, leading to low productivity, substantive staff turnover and high illness levels. The illnesses are no different to the problems presented to me on a daily basis as a therapist and stress management consultant.
From experience, it is often high stress levels in management bought on perceived performance expectations that must be deal with first. Without clear direction and planning and communication, major changes can be seen as "the straw that broke the camel’;s back" in middle management. This often undermines the success of introduced change in an organization.
A good Change Manager is fully aware of these issues at a personal level and puts in place effective strategies to handle the potential fallout from large scale change before the change is implemented. He / she then must monitor the entire process until the individual and organization are back in a stable environment. By doing this large potential losses can be avoided and the desired result from the change will be seen sooner in the bottom line.
Once the risk assessment has been completed and a customized organizational development plan has been agreed upon, the plan is implemented in the following order:
1. Senior management is coached in what to expect and how to respond to challenges and resistance to the proposed change.
2. Second tier management is trained in the requirements for introduction of new systems or technologies so that they are seen by staff to be congruent with the companies results and are part of the implementation.
3. Training sessions for each group of staff members is implemented in a way that does not disrupt day to day business to a degree degree. This training takes into account the intelligence gathered about these groups and their likelihood to resist the change, accept a move in company policy or efficiency or become part of an overall foster of renewed pride and security in a congruent corporate environment. This training is supported by regular communications to all staff on the progress and especially in the change in customer or other stakeholder’;s perception of the reinvigorated company.
4. Systems and technologies are implemented in a stagnated process and level of acceptance and integration is monitored by the change management and senior management group.
5. Additional training and communications are added as required to cement the change and make it a permanent factor in the company.
It is important through all of this that potential increases in stress levels be monitored and reacted to in a confidential way for all staff. Done correctly, a properly designed and implemented change program will reduce the risk of abnormal stress blowout and increase productivity by inducing a higher level of pride in the company and increased work satisfaction at all levels of management and staff.