Weathering change storms, or better yet, how to plan for them
Recently I attended an IABC seminar “Mitigating the Perfect Storm: Keeping Your Crew on Board During Big Changes,” delivered by Beth Montag-Schmaltz of PeopleFirm. This was a particularly relevant topic to Anvil given the changes we have encountered over the past several months, which Kent Lewis has written about extensively on Business2Community.
I have summarized the key takeaways on planning for change and followed that up with my perspective on how to weather the storm.
Planning for Change
Employees are being asked to do more with less and more change is coming at a faster pace. There is no indication this will stop, and every indication it will increase. So how do we better manage change organizationally?
- Collect: Scope out major projects that will require change
- Visualize: Create a “h
eat map” of projects that will require change so you can identify collision points (too many changes at the same time that compete with each other)
- Govern: mitigate “change saturation” by managing changes thoughtfully, sequence the timing of change and prepare a plan
- Sustain: adjust and track mitigation efforts
The symptoms of “Change Saturation” include: agitation, resistance, confusion, failed projects or failure for projects to gain momentum.
Weathering the Change Storm
If you find yourself in the midst of major change and didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to plan, consider employing the following tactics to make it through unscathed. I’ve learned the best medicine for coping with the symptoms of “change saturation” are:
- Stay calm – panic does not foster productivity
- Create a plan – it’s never too late
- Express compassion for those impacted – change is disruptive and people are more apt to help if they know you feel their pain (‘we’re in this together!’)
- Commit to learning what went wrong and how to avoid it – this is a crucial step and will help create a plan for the next wave of change.
I learned these lessons while working at a PR agency on the team managing crisis and corporate identity communications for a large software company during the timeframe when the company was charged with abusing its monopoly power, the world was shaken by 9/11, and the company’s very well-known founder left for more charitable pastures. On the most memorable media call of my career, with the Wall Street Journal no less, my only task was to say “No comment.” After I delivered this response, the reporter screamed at me “if you stick your head in the sand and only say ‘No Comment’ to every question I ask, what exactly is your purpose in life!?” To which I responded “I don’t think I’m able to tell you anything that will make you happy, so I’m going to hang up the phone now.” Stayed calm, had a plan, expressed compassion, and learned from this experience.