Mastering CHANGE Management

A tip for you, give me some change!

Are we afraid of change or afraid of the unknown? I'm not asking this question from a psychological perspective – I’ll leave this field to my wife Zaida, an HR executive, and daughter Gabriela, a PhD candidate in psychology – instead, it comes from my experience watching successful people embrace change and wondering what sets them apart.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint that those people were made part of the change either purposely, by using good change management techniques, or by incorporating their ideas due to the needs of the business. I have also seen many people reject change and get in the way of different ideas brought to them - most of the time by the management team - but why?

Many things have been written about this by experts in the field and my point of view is not new, but I have seen it work.  I simply believe that good change management could be summarized in the following acronym; Coordinated, Heterogeneous Approach to New Goals and Expectations.

COORDINATED; all change needs planning.  Be sure you know what you want to do, why, by who and when.  Be very clear about the purpose and what you are trying to accomplish. Then, set up enough time to schedule the activities needed to get the information and complete the execution and feedback sessions.

HETEROGENEOUS APPROACH; in this age of diversity this sounds like an obvious thing, but for some reason this hasn't translated in the same way to change.  In multiple occasions we only have one thing in mind and offer an extremely homogeneous look at a situation. Try to incorporate participation from multiple areas affected by the change and incorporate their ideas as much as possible. You can deliver the same communication in different ways.  Know your audience and make sure you tailor the message to them. Trying to save time by doing it the one size fits all way can jeopardize the intended outcome.

NEW GOALS; remember that new does not necessarily means recent.  Sometimes we think something is obvious because what you are bringing into the table is an old idea.  This does not mean everybody has been exposed to it.  Present this new goal in a clear way and please make sure it is measurable.  Always establish a baseline to be able to monitor progress.

EXPECTATIONS; just because you set a goal doesn't mean expectations were always clear.  You have to make sure you've defined your expectations well - in a way that translates to other units as well.  For example, you could establish the expectation to be 50% of your goal by midyear and 80% at year end if we are dealing with a multi-year goal.  When you establish expectations make sure to recognize the achievements of each one of those milestones.

The first time I saw this approach work I was still working in Puerto Rico.  Our boss at the time was a big proponent of Quality Circles and wanted to change the organization to a culture of Quality. At the beginning he was very directive in his ways and we all resisted the new ideas but he quickly adapted and became very inclusive.  He took his management team through the journey of quality first, incorporated our ideas, set common goals, clarified expectations and then encouraged us to do the same with our teams.  We established all-inclusive teams across the site to evaluate the different processes and then those teams worked with our management group to establish the priorities and start addressing the issue one by one.  Even though his approach was not supported by the corporate office and he had to explain what he was doing all the time, I witnessed day by day how our organization started to embraced the change to a “Quality First” enterprise and in less than three years we were an absolutely high performance organization where everybody, at all levels, was working toward the same goal and had the same expectations.

This way of looking at change is especially helpful when you are trying to change the “culture” of a workplace.  I have seen teams formed to address “culture change” just to see them drift into a memory.  Our processes change culture, most of the time multiple processes.  Focus your energy in those processes that are more relevant to the behavior you want to modify and address them one by one and you will see your team embracing change in a whole new way!