Are you afraid of change? 

Many of us can accept that change has to happen, whether we like it or not. That’s why we forget how uncomfortable change is in the workplace. Work must be something that is stable, predictable and manageable in our lives. Yet change is necessary in any business. 

Change is simply the adaptation to new circumstances that presents themselves in the workplace and market. It can be adapting to a new consumer trend, restructuring an old policy or adjusting to a new administrative program. Change is expected to happen constantly in the work place. 

Therefore, it’s important to understand how to manage it. 

To guide us through what change management is, we invited Dorothy Stahjans to discuss her experience managing business changes all over the world. Ms. Stahjans is a Deputy Director of Business Development where she has had to manage teams in two different countries and has had moderate more changes than she can count. Her ability to lead teams through sudden changes and manage complicated emotions were developed during her time as a trail runner in Beijing and as a volunteer mentor for the World Academy for the Future of Women.

Ms. Stahjans illustrated her experience by explaining how the emotions we go through in how we react to change. Her most useful guide was the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, a chart mapping out how productivity and emotional response to change effect the workplace.

Many of us are familiar with these terms as similar to the Grieving Process. We go through a cycle of emotions when reacting to change and trying to manage it. What makes the Change Curve an effective tool is that it explains we react emotionally to change in different ways over time. And it can help us manage our teams as they adjust. 

Change is hard to manage because it creates uncertainty. You want to do what you do everyday because you don’t have to think about what you have to do or how. You can function on autopilot as you know the steps and routines, that makes us comfortable. Yet you cannot improve if you’re working at a plateau. Change is necessary to make sure quality and production does not stagnate, especially when you’re attempting to keep alive in a competitive marketplace. 

Workplaces changes bring uncertainty to a team, uncertainty is an information gap. A team cannot predict all of the consequences of a change or foresee how many details of their routine are going to be adjusted. What makes the information gap incredibly hard to work with is when no one knows what they are being forced to change. What was the reason for this? What’s going to happen? What is the end goal?

This is the most difficult part in change management. Many people will be reacting with different levels of emotions and insecurity, they will need time and communication with their superiors about how to manage it. The less someone understands about why or how their work routine will be changed, the more they’ll push back because of fear.

Why design thinking has helped the rise of huge brands

Many huge brands in the market like Google, Coca-Cola, Nike, Adidas, Pepsi, among others are enjoying a global acceptance with a huge success rate because they have been listening to their consumers for years, being in the vanguard of everything that happens in the world. Design thinking has a lot to see with this and is now that organizations and the experience from designers to work for them, trying to get a bit of this success.

Presenting real solutions to everyone with their products through many tools like theatrics, movies, models, and things that could make people feel, now is the moment where the insights gained a huge value. Another thing that design thinking can do is understand the advantages that their products can provide to consumers profoundly, and see if there is something they can get better before launching any kind of final product.

This is how business can increase their success and improve the way they deliver their products with a design thinking approach.

Now we have to reflect on what that challenge looks like: 

What is clear communication?

Clear communication is a form of structured feedback time to discuss someone’s thoughts, feelings or conflicts they have about change. It’s a nonjudgemental discussion that respects the experiences and reactions of individuals, allowing the team to help resolve these conflicts together. This open dialogue can happen privately, in a small group or amongst a team but should be done during a set time and place. The best way to create clear communication is by planning for feedback sessions and group meetings ahead of time so the individuals can talk about any conflicts they’re having and receive advice from the other teammates.

How much time does it take to invest in communicating with your team about change? 

This is a critical component to making sure you have an easy transition, so it cannot be rushed! You must have plenty of opportunities for engaging your employees in this change to empower them to transition confidently. Communicate first the set deadlines of any commissions or important filing dates that have to be completed and keep an open door for people to stop by and ask questions. You can have a set schedule while also making time to talk to others about the issues they’re having.

How can I encourage my team to express themselves if they’re shy?

Create ways for your team to come and communicate their thoughts, questions and feelings with you. This can be done by creating the time to sit down in a safe and private space with them to hear their concerns. You can have open office hours where a team member can walk in or schedule a time to sit down.

How can I make sure I’m being clear with my teammates and customers?

Don’t assume. Always clarify what you can offer, what they will get and what you will need.

We often assume we’re all working with the same knowledge and information around a project. But every person is working with different levels of information and needs time to fully understand what’s expected of them during the transition. Make sure there are designated times for individuals or teams to sit down and share their concerns to clear up expectations.

How do you change when you want to change but can’t?

Change is scary, even when you know you have to change and want to. A part of it is you knows what you will have to do, but you won’t be able to follow through if don’t have a clear outcome. Help your team believe in the positive outcomes of this change. You will go through the curve of emotions, but by giving them the time for feedback and reflection, they’ll be able to gradually manage and integrate the change into their daily routine.

Take your time when planning for feedback sessions. Here are a few tips you can reflect on to help you organize and plan what you’ll need to discuss.

Tip One: Don’t Panic. Act.

Normal business should follow procedure. Find a way to calm your and your teams’ nerves as you begin this change. Encourage your team to take a break, add a relaxation or exercise element, offer to take your team out to dinner to talk about their experiences.  

Tip Two: Know your customers. 

You need to adapt and change in order to know who your target audience and customers really are. Who will buy this product? Who needs this service? How can we reach them?

In this sense, changing your business routines is a way of adding perspective. As you begin finding the goals and frustrations of your customers, you can adapt your business by structuring change in order to adapt your services to your loyal customers.

Tip Three: Talk with your customers and employees. 

Often we feel we are being spoken AT and not TO. This happens when a business does not explain a sudden change and operations seem to flip. It creates a scary and intimidating environment for workers and can make your customers distrustful of the sudden brand strategy change.

Help your team adapt to change by working together through clear communication and slow, easy steps. It can start as challenging your team to try something different for a week then sitting down in groups to discuss and review the change.

Tip Four: Know you and your team’s boundaries.

You and your team are the most important assets to this business. Change can be intimidating and needs to be communicated clearly with many check-ins to make sure everyone is being heard. 

Taking the time to give yourself and your team the opportunity to give feedback and come to you with their concerns is important to managing this transition. 

We are afraid of change for many reasons. We’re afraid of losing our connections, of sudden behavior changes, not being able to adapt quickly enough. It’s often the hardest part of initiating a change, and often leads to delayed meetings and sudden changes in schedule. It then becomes even harder to help manage a change in your office when nobody can communicate how the change is directly impacting work or effecting their routines. 

 

We should have a shared interest in the change, and that can be managed with open communication and a clear outcome. When there is a clear outcome, people can work together to navigate change and manage within the group. Creating clear communication in disruptive times means being able to anticipate problems, be open to continuous feedback, and have a clear outcome to reflect back to.