MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Implement change during tough times

An economic crisis might be the best time to make changes, says change management expert Pat Wellington.

by Pat Wellington
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

With the Budget due on Wednesday, it’s clear the economy isn’t out of the hot water yet. But while it might seem perverse, the uncertainty created by the economic crisis could be your best time to make changes in your organisation. You don’t have to justify and prove the case for change and adaptation, whereas in good times there could be more resistance.

A lot of people freak out when change is introduced. Many just want to know whether they’ll still have a job at the end of it, while others just complain that it’s too complicated. The manager’s job is to show how the changes being introduced are related to other changes or organisational strategies.
We asked change management expert Pat Wellington for her essential lessons on implementing changes successfully.

1. Paint a clear picture of the end goals
Focus on results and deliverables, not attitudes, expectations, or emotions. Managers need to be able to explain the past - how and why we got where we are today - in order for people to understand the (better) future.

2. Check in early and often
Implementing change is a dynamic process. You always have to worry about how far and fast people can move. It's intuitive -- how are people feeling? Listen carefully.

3. Be a catalyst, not a controller
Let those who are going to do the work fill in the blanks between the `big concepts' and what's happening on the ground. As soon as you can, turn over the responsibility to those who are making the changes.

4. Use your authority
This defines you as a change manager. Understanding your authority means accepting your limitations – so find where your boundaries are, and  only concentrate first on areas you where you have authority.

5. Don’t ask for permission
You might be told no. You know where the boundaries are, so be bold and take a few risks. Most of the time, if you get the result you want, you're going to be a hero, rather than a failure.

6. Pick your battles
As a change manager, you have to pick which battle you really mean to fight, and never sacrifice the war over one little skirmish. Change managers have limited resources. Keep asking yourself: what are the priorities?

7. Be an exemplar of change
If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. Decide your point of view about the change you are undertaking and know the specific benefits it’s designed to bring.  

8. Deal with the politics
Try to stay on the positive side of all stakeholders. Be proactive and keep them updated. Even no news is news. An invisible change manager will be seen as ineffective, which doesn't do anybody any good.

9. Don’t be seduced into ‘staying safe’
A change manager who's looking over the fence at the next organisational opportunity isn't going to succeed. Don’t get caught up in the nitty-gritty: in any business, given a choice between somebody who understands bits and bytes or a change agent, the majority will take the change agent.

10. Keep one eye on the bottom line
Change may be about moving people out of their comfort zones, but it's also about focusing on financial performance and creating shareholder value. It’s not just about the soft stuff: change agents who don't understand the financial issues of the company aren't worth much.

- Pat Wellington is author of Effective People Management, part of the Business Success series published by Kogan Page

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