Change management and leadership in uncertain times | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Change management and leadership in uncertain times

14 June, 2020

Business entities carrying out trade face unprecedented disruption and confusion due to the ongoing pandemic. The impact has already paved the way to a chain effect of unexpected positive and negative management issues in almost all such organisations.

The influence made way for dramatically different customer needs and drastic market shifts on one side and the new normalcy impact on staff members on the other. Strategies have been hurriedly turned around to meet the change. These strategies seem to be constantly looked at to address the additional growth or fall out.

Interruptions to established strategies or structures are always challenging to trade. However, this offers the leaders a great opportunity to test their leadership capacity and ability by successfully transforming organisations that are under duress. Leaders get a prospect to proactively respond to the threat and an opportunity to strategise the new culture in their organisations. These leaders can use the right resources and mobilise their teams to succeed in critical business environments.

Change management is a method to assist employees of an organisation to confidently acclimatise themselves to a sudden or planned change. Employees being positive and proactive to change will help reduce uncertainty and mistrust, most often with the management.

Although the change management process is logical, it can become complicated depending on the number of people involved and their individual understanding abilities, thus needs varied management approaches in different situations. It ultimately boils down to leadership efficiency and effectiveness to transform an organisation.

It is a known phenomenon of humankind that they respond differently, suspiciously and pessimistically to change in most instances. This is common to the entire world irrespective of ethnic, cultural, economic or environmental circumstances. Hence, it is crucial to consider how to deal with change overload. Leaders must make sure that they do not let the employees feel excluded. Concerns about too quick changes, poor engagement, inadequate resources for the change and poor guidance must be eliminated at the very beginning of the process.

Important criteria

Even though the change process is long and hard, let us try to analyse a part of the important criteria of change management.

Initially, it is of paramount importance to inculcate an optimistic feeling among the group about the change. This may be done in a subtle and imperceptible manner without aggravating (a possible) hostility. While most of the senior management understands the occurrence without difficulty, some of the middle and junior level employees may consider the change as a threat to them and tend to resist.

One of the best ways to counter this resistance is to explain that the change is necessary and it is done for their own benefit. Positive attitude of the employees towards the change is one of the most vital factors in the beginning. Staff with pessimistic attitudes is the most unproductive factor in an organisation. Hence, as proposed by Victor Vroom of the Yale Management School about employee motivation, ‘Expectancy Theory’ or ‘what is in it for me’ is the best approach a management can adopt. If the employees can be convinced that the change is beneficial and it is going to make their lives better, a greater part of the battle is won.

Another important factor is that the management should neither rush change actions nor should they take too long to implement. Both actions may result in a depressing impact. Management should subtly announce the change, educating the staff about the process with benefits to them and possibly, (but carefully) involving them in the planning process. The campaign must commence when the iron is hot. Therefore, striking a balance on starting the process at this stage is crucial.

Feeling of ownership

Inculcating a feeling of ownership in employees during a changing process is significant. They must feel that they are also a part of the anticipated change. Also the entire workforce must be made to understand that the change is part of a cycle. An effective management team realises that even in personal lives change is hard. An unexpected and properly unexplained change can let people feel lost, frustrated and angry. If this human psychological fact is addressed properly, employees will accept the norm and adapt to the transformation soon.

The executive team must devise an implementation strategy to start the pre-planned process. As everything in the business is expected to be changed, this is the most opportune time to introduce diverse or new products and/or services. Prior to the implementation, the management should educate the staff about the goals and objective of the move, using subtlety as discussed earlier in the article.

Employees must be given the bigger picture and made to understand. The management must also discuss the importance of a measurable and time bound goal. As an additional motivational tool, some sort of incentive to the staff can be tied to success.

At this stage, one essential tip for successful change for the management is to make sure that the employees are included from the beginning. This move can act as an encouragement to motivate them more. When the goals are set, obtaining their opinion and output can be useful although it has to be done cautiously. Too many opinions may hamper the final plan, thus they have to be controlled cleverly and delicately.

While holding the control of the total action, delegating tasks to the staff must be done to acquire the most effective result.

It is extremely vital that everyone share ownership and responsibility for the transition. As change to a person is intuitive and emotional, it is important to take emotions and personal concerns into account during the whole process. Feeling of uncertainty and fear which are not acknowledged by the management team may spoil the initiative regardless of best laid plans or most logical reasons. Therefore, responding to individual feelings with passion is imperative.

Another important factor in the process for the leaders, particularly with Sri Lankan work culture, is to remain firm throughout the process. This has to be done effectively to avoid parts left unfinished as that can leave employees demoralised and less committed to the task. However, the rigidness should not be unreasonable and unyielding. While remaining firm, the leaders must be flexible to employee issues during the change process.

Providing suitable training related to the expected change and strategies is a good idea. However, the training schedule should not disturb actual work; therefore, those must be scheduled without hindrance to the process.

Finally, the executive team must monitor the whole process to adjust or amend any of the strategies if and when hiccups occur.

Interruptions are certain and addressing them instantly and responding quickly is the key to successful transformation. As leaders, the senior team must understand that changes take time. Therefore, being patient is important. Stick to the core of the plan but during the action, improvise if and when the need arises.