The Politics of Change Management
Most of us have sat through change management seminars and learned different steps for helping your team make it through the learning curve of a new process or technology. We learn about the five steps of ADKAR (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement). However, realistically, there is a big capital P missing somewhere in that acronym – politics.
What I didn’t know when processing change in organizations is that people who once liked me before were going to get annoyed by my eagerness, frustrated with me as the origin of change, and attack the new process to a point of making it almost impossible to implement. The seminars tend to focus on easing the hurdles and obstacles for those going through the change, but what they didn’t tell you is that as the origin of change, you are going to need patience, social acuity, and a little bit of Buddhism to keep you going. You’re going to want to give up, and in some cases, I can’t say that you should keep going. However, this article is going to point out things that worked for me to keep me going in the face of politics.
Believe in The Change You’re Bringing About
Problem: Most of us who introduce new technology to companies are shifting the work culture and perspective of that organization. In my experience, I’ve worked tirelessly to help increase efficiencies in organizations and increase visibility and accountability to key stakeholders. Valuable, right? Not to everyone. We know this – ADKAR told us it would be so. However, I didn’t feel fully prepared for how much the process was going to be attacked and ripped apart, and how personal I was going to take these actions.
Solution: My advice for this is to truly believe in the change you are bringing for the company. The change is presumably coming about to fix a problem or increase efficiency, proficiency or profit, so keep focusing on the end goal. This will help keep your motivation high as you are faced with rude comments, non-participants and the incessant complaining. Also, don’t take any of that personal. It’s in people’s nature to fear change and them acting out isn’t against you and sometimes it’s not even against the process, it is simply against change itself and the anxiety of doing things in a new way.
Ask Your “Process Haters” to Rephrase
Problem: A lot of the complaints we receive from the non-participants or begrudged participants is a quick jab at the process itself or angrily typed complaints about how a piece of the process doesn’t work for them. Sometimes, you struggle with figuring out logic behind why it doesn’t work or how in the world you are going to go back to your development team and ask them to figure out how to change this seemingly perfect thing (“I’m sorry, dev team, but Karen is insisting that the font on the submit button is just not going to work for her team”).
Solution: Have the colleague submitting the complaint rephrase in a predetermined structure. For example, have all complaints or comments be phrased in a “1. What”, “2. Why”, and “3. How Can It Be Better?”. Not only will this give them pause to think about why they are submitting the complaint, but it also opens up communication so you, the change manager, can get the full scope of the story. It helps all parties open dialogue and gain both perspectives on the issue (“Hey dev team, Karen would like the font changed because her team advised that the word submit is looking an awful lot like cancel and is leading to confusion. Can we try Klavika?”).
Stay Positive and Maintain Your Advocacy
Problem: After the whispers about how the new process or system sucks (you heard me, sucks), you might get worn down. While you continue to believe the change will be good for the company and help everyone in the long run, you start to not care. I have hit this wall before (I might be standing really close to it currently), and there is nothing more defeating. You start thinking, fine, do things inefficiently, lose money on projects, make things difficult on literally everyone else. Just breathe and back away from that wall.
Solution: You have to get back up on your feet, put a smile on and keep helping your company bring about healthy change. Host meetings, trainings and seminars on how to use the new process and be a guide for those who are getting a bit lost in the newness of it all. Try to make it fun despite the negativity and do what you can to make sure the negativity doesn’t spread. Speak to managers and team leads and gather advocates who will help ease the change for their team.
“Let the mind flow like water” – Thic Thien-An.
“Haters Gonna Hate…Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate” – Taylor Swift.
Change is difficult for everyone and sometimes people don’t realize that the originator of change is genuinely trying to help improve the company for everyone. The negativity hurts and sometimes you can’t help but take it personally. Don’t. Try to be an active listener and an open communicator to make sure everyone is heard and solutions are identified for the team. Despite your best efforts, people might still whisper and complain under their breath. Let those whispers flow into your mind like water, and then shake it off.