0 Playing Your Part - Managing Change at Work

Change at work may be forced on us by many things, e.g. technological advances, new legislation, economic worries, or environmental considerations - including most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

Successful change management can hinge on how well we (i) communicate change, (ii) implement change, and (iii) set a good example to others during the change. .

Trainer Frank Newberry looks at a simple approach to communicating and implementing change in the workplace. He outlines the four key requirements that will need to be met if change is to be handled successfully (by either team leaders, or by team members - who want to make a difference)

You may have heard the phrase: 'people don't like change'. Sometimes it is expressed as 'people resist change'. These sayings have been doing the rounds for many years now, and they can be useful if they cause the authors (or agents) of change to devise strategies that will overcome any resistance to change in the workplace.

I would challenge the notion that people resist change

Personally, I would challenge the notion that people resist change. My evidence? How about gambling in the UK? On 13 November 1994 approximately ten million people gambled in the UK. Around 17% of the UK population had a flutter - mainly on the football pools.

The next day (14th November 1994), the National Lottery was launched, and 49 million lottery tickets were purchased. The UK population was then about 58 million people.

The National Lottery caused millions more people to become gamblers! The number of gamblers has now settled down to just less than twice the pre-lottery figure with the National Lottery still the UK's favourite gambling option.

Millions of people have made a significant change in their lives

This suggests to me that millions of people have made a significant change in their lives, and they have remained changed - for a quarter of a century. Around 1.7% of the UK population still do the football pools; about one tenth of those who were doing the pools back in 1994.

Why did millions of people change their behaviour? Is it that people just need to know whether a proposed change will bring them benefits, or the prospect of benefits? Another popular phrase seems to apply here, the notion of 'what's in it for me?' or 'what may be in it for me?'

In this article, we will look briefly at the National Lottery as an example of a successful change that was structured and implemented to succeed. Then we will look at how we might help to manage change when it comes to our workplace.

Everyone is now an agent of change

There are four key features that need to be in place if we are to successfully manage change at work. Now, you may be thinking that change in the workplace is nothing to do with you - that change is a senior management problem, not my problem - it is, as you might say, 'well above your pay grade'.

Well, that might have been the view in the middle of the last century. But change is now so frequent, and so necessary - for our employers' survival and our own employment prospects - that everyone is now an agent of change. From apprentices to senior managers.

So what do we have to do? Well, I believe that we all have a part to play, and ultimately we could be shaping the future of our team, our organisation and maybe even the future of our profession.

Let us look at the part we can play in change management at work, especially helping meet the requirements for successful change.

Four Key Requirements of Successful Change

1. A shared dissatisfaction with the present situation

2. A vision of the future that we can all see clearly

3. A route to goal

4. A plan with dates

First Requirement: A shared dissatisfaction with the present situation

The National Lottery succeeded because a sense of dissatisfaction with the football pools was not difficult to locate and then exploit. The Lottery was quick and easy, you could participate when you went shopping, the prizes were much bigger, and you were contributing to worthwhile good causes through the Lottery Fund. By contrast, the football pools took longer to do, the prizes were smaller and no good causes seemed to benefit.

How can you help with change at work?

To meet this first requirement at work - a shared dissatisfaction with the present - we need to identify the problems, weaknesses and irritations that could be fixed by the introduction of a change. We can assist this process by helping people to become more dissatisfied.

How do we do this?

By getting people at work to talk about why we need to change our ways, make improvements etc. Now, change may be forced on us by many things, including technological advances, new legislation, economic or environmental considerations - including, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note how the government imposed the Tier system across the UK in late 2020. This was one example of how our leaders use legislation to help us to become sufficiently dissatisfied with our present situation that we want to change our behaviour - and beat the Coronavirus.

The more we believe in the restrictions, the more we become frustrated and dissatisfied with the people who ignore them. Our desire to conform to the restrictions becomes greater, and our tolerance of the poor behaviour of others is reduced. We have learned that the example of leaders is key also!

Second Requirement: A vision of the future that all can see clearly

The National Lottery had a clear vision and simple key messages that were promoted in the mass media. The Lottery was even supported by HM Government. The promotional campaign just had to stress how easy it was to play, how cheap it was, how huge the prizes were and how we were simultaneously donating to good causes. Irresistible.

How can you help?

To meet this second requirement at work - a vision of the future - we need to ensure that all affected by the change can see themselves being successful in the new ways of working - from the outset. Then successful again all through any transition period, and finally - working successful after the change(s) have taken place. You may need to work with people who need convincing; a few may even be hostile to the idea, but several will be all for the change(s) from the beginning.

Third Requirement: A route to goal

The National Lottery had a clear route to its goal. The promotional campaign started early, everyone knew what to expect and there were no surprises.

How can you help?

To meet this third requirement at work (a route to goal), we need to ensure that all affected by the change know how we will transition from the current (old) way of working to the new way. This might mean scheduling short meetings to get across key messages about what will change, and what will stay the same.

The route should also take in the training or development needed by people so they can be productive straight after the change. Regular one-to-one meetings with individuals and teams should be held - where progress can be celebrated, and problems raised and resolved.

Fourth Requirement: A plan with dates

The National Lottery had a plan with dates. Everyone could see the massive infrastructure developing. Machines started appearing in convenience stores, newsagents, supermarkets etc. Thankfully for the UK, other countries had pioneered lotteries on a massive scale. The first modern lottery was launched in Puerto Rico in 1934. The first lottery in the UK (called the Million Adventure) was run in 1694 during the reign of William and Mary. The UK in 1994 could pick and mix from the best lottery systems around the world.

How can you help?

To meet this fourth requirement at work - a plan with dates - we need to ensure that all the dates, or milestones, in the change programme are known to everyone. Actual events with actual dates.

Questions you might ask include: When do we start the change programme? When does the change programme end? When do we review our progress during the programme? How do we go about changing dates if there is any slippage?

So, whether you are a team leader or a team member who wants to make a difference, I wish you good luck with the communication and implementation of change at work. You can do it!


© 2020 Frank Newberry

If you have questions about communication at work and in your career, you can reach Frank Newberry at his personal website www.franknewberry.com. Just click on the Contact tab

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