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Implementing Effective Change in the Workplace Christine Phillimore Abstract: Why is change necessary? This article looks

Implementing Effective Change in the Workplace

Christine Phillimore

Abstract: Why is change necessary? This article looks at some of the stages involved in successfully bringing about change in the workplace, making it stick, and evaluating it. The importance of taking time to engage people and being aware of their emotions and mind-set is an important aspect of this. It. also considers models and cycles of change.

Keywords: change models, communication, evaluation, mind-set, preparation, resistance.

ImplementIng effectIve change In the Workplace

Implementing Effective Change in the Workplace Christine Phillimore Abstract: Why is change necessary? This article looks

Following a successful career in education, Christine Phillimore became a freelance trainer. Focused and well-read, she has worked in Uganda, Israel, and South Africa, as well as in England and Europe. She has delivered training courses in communication skills and business writing skills. Her clients include GSK, PIMCO, Addaction, the National Health Service (NHS), various universities and the armed forces in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”


Change is a fact of life, and it is constant. Think of all the changes you have experienced in just the past year. While it is recognized that change is difficult for most people, not changing in the business world can be fatal. Those who see change as an opportunity for growth and progress will reap benefits in their professional and personal life. What is change? The Oxford Dictionary states that the verb “change” is “to make or become different” or “take or use instead of” and the noun is the act or instance of making or becoming different. The importance lies in something becoming different, whether small or large, and it is this that some people find difficult. Most of us are quite happy simply being left where we are, with- out any interference whatsoever. This is especially true when people have previously experienced change, particularly at work, and the whole process has not gone well, with the change not resulting in any perceived benefits. Change has been, and always will be with us. It is increasingly rapid and people expect others to respond at the same rapid pace, and get frustrated when they do not.

© Business Expert Press 978-1-63157-911-0 (2018) Expert Insights

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Implementing Effective Change in the Workplace

People react differently for a variety of reasons; it often depends on what the change is, but it usually succeeds or fails in the way it is communicated before it is implemented.

the need for preparatIon

Plan for versatility. Be ready to build the

right kind of momentum for change and get properly ready for any major alteration. It is important to know how to handle “what


. . .

?” so that you are better able to deal

with any change in direction, especially when it is unexpected. Assess your culture. How well-equipped or prepared is your team for change? Is the change in line with your organization’s values? It should be seen to add to them, not divert from them. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is essential so that you can imagine the change from their point of view. Only then will you be able to coach and support them through the period of transition. Know your own strengths and abilities. Having the degree of self-awareness to ask if you are the right person to drive the change forward, and support it, is key. If you move too fast, you do not engage people. The plan will not be properly implemented. You will lose control and momentum. On the contrary, move too slowly and peo- ple lose interest and someone else might take over. It is also essential that you are able to stand back and take a long look at what is happening, the better to be able to review actions and judge whether another course of action would be more effective. Lines of communication must be crystal clear so people do not become distracted by wondering what is actually happening. It is vital to keep people in the loop. Not talking

to staff early enough will sabotage plans. People very quickly pick up the sense that something is on the cards, but they are not being involved, so they make up their own story. Then, rumors spread like wild- fire and people are then less likely to believe any official news.

Be completely focused in your approach. This not only reinforces the consistency of the message being conveyed, but also means you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. It helps you to stay on track.

cycle of change

Many people refer to the work of Elisabeth Kubler Ross (1969) when looking for a model of change. This was originally based on her work with terminally ill people and how people dealt with the subsequent grief. It has become known as the Change Curve, and can be useful to understand the reactions of people in dealing with an organizational change. It is particularly relevant when the change is unexpected or not anticipated. The five stages are shock and denial, anger and depression, bargaining, acceptance, and commitment. In Stage One, people prefer to remain with the status quo; this is where clear, effective communication is essential. People can become disruptive at Stage Two. This has been called the danger zone because people often want to stay here, not having to face the challenges of moving on. This is where a manager has to watch, listen, and support, bearing in mind that not everyone will be at the same stage at the same time. At the bargaining stage, people often want to make agreements that will allow them to retain some aspects of where they are, not necessarily being realistic. It is, however, a sign that things are beginning to alter. When people begin to accept the change, they start exploring and testing out new ideas. This is when they need to be given time to do this fully before moving on to the commitment stage. This is where rebuilding takes place. It is im- portant to create a sense of satisfaction in what has been done and celebrate success. Thus, when the next change is introduced, there is a greater feeling of satisfaction and readiness to embrace the next step. Another model that has direct bearing on the success of organizational change is Don

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Implementing Effective Change in the Workplace

Kelley and Daryl Conner’s Emotional Cycle of Change (1979). This is more applicable when the change can be anticipated. Kelley and Conner’s model outlines the following five stages:

■■ Uninformed optimism ■■ Informed pessimism ■■ Hopeful realism ■■ Informed optimism ■■ Completion

This model looks at the emotional im- pact of planned change on individuals within an organization. At Stage One, you may be excited about getting started, but your emotional response levels will be low as the focus is on doing, rather than carefully considering the situation at hand. As opposed to the Change Curve of Kubler Ross, where the first reaction is shock because the change was not anticipated, Kelley and Conner show that with a planned change, there is initial or Uninformed Optimism. Getting people to focus on the probable benefits can reinforce this feeling. The next stage is Informed Pessimism, where people start to feel negatively, especially when there are problems. They become frustrated and can question the va- lidity of the whole project and its leadership, to the point of wanting to abandon it alto- gether. People can do this publicly by criti- cizing and making objections; privately, they will cease to be as involved or lose interest, sniping out of earshot. As a manager, you need to check the authentic- ity of the plan and its scope. Look at the support network in place and consider appointing mentors to sustain the progress. Examine the communication channels you are using to confirm that they are working effectively. Stage Three is Hopeful Realism, where pessimism should start to wane as people become aware that problems can be handled and solutions devised. Look for ways to sustain the progress made and

how people can still be engaged and encouraged. Make yourself available, let- ting people know when you are, and take time to talk to individuals and to the team as a whole. With Informed Optimism, there will be a growing feeling of confidence that things are beginning to make sense and the change has become less fraught, regarded with less anxiety. A great way to reinforce this new attitude and information is to share it with others so that it can be used for future projects and avoid the resistance too often associated with change. The final stage, Completion, will see another lowering of emotional response. Here, it is important to evaluate what went well and what were the lessons learned, as well as thanking everyone involved. The stage is too often forgotten in the pressure of daily work life. Being aware of people’s emotional responses allows the leader to incorporate these in the initial plan and make allowances for them.

resIstance to change

It has been assumed that people over 30 cannot or do not change or develop new habits. Kegan and Lahey (2009) disagree. Their research shows that the human brain is capable of sustained development throughout adulthood. They suggest that creating an expectation within an organi- zation that people are expected to change and grow will challenge the usual atti- tude to change over time. It means that people’s motivation to change needs to be cultivated and given time. It also requires a change in mind-set, which includes the head and the heart, and is, likewise, time-consuming. However, it is important to bear in mind that such changes in mind-set and behavior do not immediately lead to complete transformation. This approach does mean a greater degree of longer lasting change and allows people to take risks and develop their potential in a supportive atmosphere.

© Business Expert Press 978-1-63157-911-0 (2018) Expert Insights