1. Your Staff Are Kept in the Dark

While managers are (usually) privy to company reports, presentations and discussions, most staff won’t have a clue what is going on. They won’t:

Know the financial situation;

Know what customers’ demands are;

Be aware of how well their organisation is doing or perceived by their stakeholders;

Understand the problems or issues the company is facing.

This means when managers are told change is needed, they are quickly able to identify the why, whilst those who are kept in the dark take far longer to identify and accept the need for change.

Given the choice, many managers take the easy option and avoid upsetting the equilibrium by shielding information from their staff. However, to truly be able to convince other employees of the need for change, organisations must be open and honest, and issues must be communicated early on in the process.

2. Managers Don’t Understand the Reality of Their Own Business

Whilst they may know the facts and figures, many managers can’t articulate the real need for change as they don’t know what’s really happening in their organisation. In a small business, it’s easy to keep on top of day-to-day activity because there are so few in the team. However, as a business grows, this proves more difficult and managers soon get wrapped up in their own role.

Unfortunately, this disconnect between what management thinks is going on in the business and the reality of what is actually going on could de-rail a change programme. No matter how well management communicate the need for change, the given reason will not resonate with employees if their day-to-day experience is different from what management perceives it. The result is a lack of understanding and a slowdown in the change process.

So before embarking on any change, spend some time in your business talking to people, understanding their problems and observing the operations in practice. This observational activity is often called a Gemba walk – going to the shop floor, office etc. and taking time to clearly understanding each part of the business.

3. We Don’t Understand What Our People Do, What They Go Through and What Motivates Them

To explain the need for change and get your team to truly understand it, you must communicate from the perspective of your staff at each level or area in the business. This proves difficult if you don’t understand your staff. Every person in your business will have a different motivation for doing their job.

Management must strive to understand what this motivation is and take time to appreciate what they do on a day-to-day basis. Only once this is achieved can you communicate the change in a way they will understand and effectively communicate how the change will benefit them. To do this, spend time with your people.

The Gemba walk provides you with some understanding of what employees do, but it’s also important to spend time with your staff. Experience what they experience and adopt their perspective. Ask yourself questions like:

Do they have the right tools to complete their function well?

Are the conditions good enough?

Do they receive sufficient support?

Real leaders observe, understand and support their people regularly, so when it comes to change, they can communicate the ‘why’ with ease.

4. We Can’t Communicate As Well As We Think We Can

One of the most common reasons why managers fail to explain the need for change effectively is that they simply struggle to communicate in a way that resonates with their employees. Often, messages are lost in boring presentations filled with data and graphs and tend to use overly complex words. Whether it’s because managers don’t communicate regularly, have no relationship or rapport with their staff, or can’t adapt to the needs of their team, it’s an invisible barrier that can block all improvement initiatives from moving forward.

So what do Leaders, Managers and those tasked with leading the change need to do?

They need to be exceptional communicators and presenters, both in one-to-one and group situations;

Everything from timing to the tone must be correct;

The right language and style must be used;

Words must be selected carefully;

Put in place feedback mechanisms;

Be prepared to answer un-asked questions;

Be able to show you understand the world of the employee;

Emphasise the impact the change will have.

Ultimately, plan what is going to be said, adapt it to suit your audience and, crucially, listen to the feedback.

Key Points

Getting these four points right will lead to a smoother and more successful change implementation. Remember in most situations, 20% of your staff will follow you automatically, 20% will oppose you not matter what (‘no one likes change except a baby with a dirty nappy’ – allegedly!) and the remaining 60% will follow depending on which way the wind blows….so make sure the wind blows the way you want it to!!

Of course, there are more elements to implementing change to enable operational improvement, small (e.g. procedural change) or large scale (e.g. cultural or strategic changes requiring changes in processes and behaviours).

Want to find out how we can assist in your operational improvements and help you manage the change successfully? Get in touch below.

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