As an organization that started life as a small printing company in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, there came a time when we had to decide to remain a printing company or expand our services. Any changes that came prior to that were easy as they all related directly to printing.
When the internet appeared, we began to see a negative effect and could only imagine the future impact. So, we decided to change. The change has been fun, exciting, challenging and scary all at the same time. While our new business model encompasses communications via many different channels, print is still a large portion of our business. It wasn’t always easy and we’ve certainly learned some lessons.
This journey made me question the validity of the statement – “People hate change”. Do they really, or is it possible that it’s just a fear of the unknown?
I don’t think that most people hate change. After all, in our personal lives we have change constantly. We grow up, we get married, we get a job/lose a job/get a new job, we gain weight/lose weight, we get divorced, we have children, children grow up – I’m sure you can see the pattern. Change is always occurring and much of it is expected and welcomed. So, I think it’s more about fear of the unknown. So, how can you combat that?
I start by sitting down and developing a lists of pros and cons related to the proposed change. If the pros outweigh the cons, move forward to the next step, which is asking this question. Will this decision put me out of business or kill me, if it’s the wrong decision? It’s always important to look at the downside. What if this doesn’t work? What if it does work? Can I survive if the worst case scenario happens? What are the real risks? How will I deal with them if they occur?
Once you decide the risk is worth it and survivable, develop your plan of attack. How will this change happen? When will it happen? Is it one monumental step, or a series of steps? Who will it impact? Do they have the knowledge to deal with the change?
Lots of questions that you’re going to want to have answers for. Now, the hard part – communicating it. This is probably the most important part for an organization. You want to engage your staff, have them contribute their skills and expertise, be on board and excited about the change. This is where the fear of the unknown comes in. Before you take the first step, make sure your employees understand:
- What the change is.
- Why the change needs to happen.
- How it will occur.
- What internal changes will need to happen.
- How will it impact their day-to-day work.
- What is the risk of changing/not changing.
- How can they provide input.
- What the rewards of success will be.
People want to follow a good leader. That good leader needs to have a vision, strategies and tactics that they can effectively communicate. People need to have trust that their leader is moral and ethical and will make sound decisions for the good of the organization. If you take as much of the unknown out of the change, it will be easier for all concerned.
And, it’s not just about communicating this at the beginning of the process. It’s about regular updates via in-person meetings, written communications, conference calls or any other method of getting progress reports or snags out to your team.
Change – it does a body good!