One day two camels were talking. One camel said to the other camel, “Why do we have these two humps on our back?” The second camel replied, “We travel many miles in the desert and we need to have a reserve of water and that is why we have the two humps on our back.” Still curious, the camel asked, “Why do we squint and have long eyelashes?” His fellow camel friend answered; “When in the desert we sometimes come upon a real bad sand storm and to protect us from getting sand in our eyes we squint and our long eye lashes protect us.” Since he was getting the answers, he decided to ask another question; “Why do we have such wide feet?” “That is to stop us from sinking into the sand” the other camel replied. The first camel said “That’s good information, but why are we in the Toronto Zoo?”
Who they are hasn’t changed but their environment has. The world is always moving forward and if we don’t stay ahead of change, we will fall behind.
Change is inevitable in organizations. Companies must change or they will fall behind, eventually losing their share of the marketplace. To understand the need for change companies need to know where they are at present. If you don’t have a clear picture of where you are, how will you know what to change in order to get to where you need to be? Determining accurately where you are is a challenging analytical process.
You may like what you see, so why change? You may need to change because where you are now will not allow you to meet expanding demands for your products or services in the future. To meet your current and future customers’ needs you may need to expand, to build an extension onto your factory, and/or your show room. You may need new equipment. You may also need to expand your shipping and receiving departments, your storage areas and your staff. Usually, increasing one area of the business requires an increase in other areas.
With change come new challenges. If change is to be a positive experience, understanding what various elements of change contribute to these problems is essential. Getting a handle on which areas will prove most problematic will enable you to prepare for, and even avoid problems in the first place.
For example, suppose your company makes widgets. You currently produce 1000 widgets a day but you are expanding your operation to meet your customers’ need for 10,000 widgets a day. You will have to increase the size of the area in which you make your widgets, purchase new equipment, and hire new staff to run the equipment. You will also need to change the way you produce your widgets, manage your quality control, receive, process, and bill orders, ship your goods, and finance your new business. Your billing process will probably need to change too. After all, now you are selling to more people.
Educating yourself about these changes and what you will have to do to accommodate them is critical.
You must also understand how each change will affect your employees, the work they do and how they will perform their duties, and the challenges they will face.
Wise managers involve everyone affected, regardless of their position in the organizational hierarchy, from the very beginning to the end of the process.
It is the nature of people to resist change. Therefore, we need to be proactive in keeping employees informed and up to date with the change process as it evolves. We do this by communicating regularly with employees and reassuring them that the organization values them.
To do that you might begin by clarifying your intention to make changes and the reasons for doing so. Invite workers affected by the changes you propose to express their concerns. Encourage them to offer solutions that might minimize any adverse affects. If workers are involved in the process even when changes lead to loss of jobs, there will be more support for the changes. Whenever possible, make changes gradually so that employees do not become unnecessarily alarmed or resistant. Moreover, make changes in a way that encourages your people to provide constructive input and gives them needed support in finding new jobs when change negatively affects them.
I know of one hospital that involved employees in determining where cuts would save the most money while displacing the least number of people. While the choices were not palatable, they were necessary. Employees came up with solutions that proved less disruptive than many of the suggestions management made, prior to inviting input from the workers. When changes are made without full consideration of people involved we unplug the tub. I would suggest that you begin by making non-management staff aware of your proposed changes via the managers whom you would encourage to share their news in confidence with their subordinates. Once made, managers make their departments aware of the intermediate plans and discuss them with the departments’ staff. Then it is up to the managers to implement those changes within their various departments.
The managers can now relay the additional information as it comes down to them and share it with their co-workers who report to them. This sending down of information must employ sound communication strategies to prevent the flow of counterproductive gossip from creeping into the process. People often assume the worst when confronted with something new. They fear job loss, the need for retraining, and the possibility of pay cuts. Certainly, many fear increasing workloads.
Keeping everyone informed throughout the process will minimize the spread of unfounded rumors. When communication is frequent, clear, and complete, and everyone is properly informed of what is really happening, or will happen, workers’ trust in management is maintained and their sense of security reinforced. As a result, their productivity will be minimally affected and their tubs will stay plugged.
Change, of course, is not always about increased production. How you produce your products or deliver your services, even which products you will produce and which services you will offer could be the focus of change. With these changes, the way people work usually changes as well. In some cases—for example, when new technology replaces workers—their skills may become redundant. Regardless of the reason for change, staff may have to be retrained.
Before that can happen, you must identify all the new skills that will be required. A wise manager will provide a constructive way for training in needed skills to occur in parallel with the changes in products and services. The cost of retraining will usually prove to be less than the cost of employing brand new workers who will not yet share the company’s ethic.
Whenever you retrain workers and increase their skills you increase their value not only to your organization, but for future employment. Certainly, they will be more accepting of changes you make that involve benefits for them. They will be more willing to go through the process of the change with you and help make it a smooth transition. Most will appreciate the opportunity to retrain.
In the end you will have people who are better motivated because your planning was not just about products, services and profit. You were also mindful of your employees.
When you plan and execute change in the proper sequence, beginning with full disclosure to your employees as soon as possible, you plug the tub of your labor pool. Involved, trusting workers are productive workers. Productive workers produce quality products and services, the sale of which, usually improves your bottom line.