Change Management Skills

A Management tool

"[We can face life] even if it is arduous...if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey."

—Pope Benedict XVI in his second encyclical Spe salvi, "On Christian Hope", n.1.

"Make sure the goal you reach for is positive and brings hope for all people. Then you will be performing the work required for society that will ultimately become your hobby (or play) and eventually achieve things that society will appreciate forever."


Change can be important for the manager

The ability to change is seen as important in the life of a professional management expert. We seem toWe kind of see it all the time. No wonder management experts believe in the idea of change.

Advantages of change:

  1. A potentially better way of doing things;
  2. Potential long-term savings
  3. It could be the right way of doing things and not just a superficial improvement.

Disadvantages of change:

  1. Change can still be wrong. It could merely be a reorganising of things but does not necessarily mean the new way is right, just more efficient perhaps.
  2. Change can cost a lot of money and time.
  3. Sometimes organisations try to do too much by adding new activities on top of old activities for no real benefit other than looking like people are more busy.

Now assuming it is necessary to change and will bring great benefits, initiating the change is often the most difficult to achieve because all systems prefer to stay in a state of equilibrium. This is especially true of people. So how do we get people to change?

First, let's ask ourselves why we need to change and whether there is change at all before implementing the steps to making change happen.

Why do we change?

The changes we see in the world and how customers perceive them may affect those within an organisation to change. We call this the need to follow the herd so to speak so as to look like it is up-to-date and relevant to the current marketplace. In other situations, it can be to get ahead of the competition. At other times, the changes could be a genuine need to improve something in order to achieve something great and, in return, bring tremendous long-term benefits to everyone concerned.

Do we need to change?

Only if you believe it will make a significant and positive difference in what people can do and achieve through the change.

If you are following the herd, you may need to ask yourself how important is this change to the organisation? Will it really make a difference? If it is to get ahead of the competition, the change might be important. If the company is struggling to stay afloat, any advantage you can gain could translate into significant profits. But for how long will the change last? Will the benefits be long-term?

Is there change?

Yes, but it depends on how you look.

Superficially, there are lots of changes. Its like looking at the surface of the ocean: it can appear to move around and change a lot. And this is where many management experts tend to focus on.

For example, people may look at a technology and think it is changing because there is a new model every year. But if you look deeply enough, you will often see the same technology masquerading under a different package give or take a few features added by the manufacturer (something you could easily do yourself by upgrading certain components on older systems so long as there is a genuine benefit from doing so).

However, you will also find lots of stability if you look deeper and below the superficial details.

Here's another example. Did you know the specific tools you use on a word processor may never change with each version upgrade or update? You type some text, for instance, and you decide it is time to centre the text, give it a bold look, perhaps make the text bigger and choose a standard type of font. These functions never change. However, the placement of those buttons to bold some text, make the text larger and so on may be different. To management experts, this is what they mean by changes. But you and I know, the changes are superficial. The functions to perform what you want in previous versions are still there. It doesn't change.

So why the superficial changes? Perhaps the changes help to improve workflow and productivity for those using the software.

This is the question management experts should be asking: Not that there is change, but rather do the changes actually translate into a sizeable improvement in the way people perform and achieve their work? And will it achieve greater stability in the workplace?

If the answer is no, then the changes are not really changes. The changes are more superficial and should have no relevance to what you and other people do in the core sense.

NOTE: In marketing, superficial changes are considered important to selling a product or service. The idea is that when people see something different on the outside, it is likely they will buy the product or service. But you should bear in mind that given enough time, if you do it too much, people will see through it all. It is better to make superficial changes only if there is a genuine change in the product or service itself. Presenting something through superficial changes is one thing. But truly fundamental changes underneath is what people will remember.

What is the aim?

Again the concept of balance is critical to change management.

We all know that there will be times when we have to change. We call this an "opportunity to improve". And when we do change, we have to choose carefully the things that promote greater stability and gives customers and staff everything that they need and want for now and in the far future so as to minimise the amount of changes required in the future.

This is sensible.

People don't change for the sake of change. There must be a desire to change and this can only happen if people can see the benefits and greater stability derived from the improvements when the change is made. Change should result in greater stability and bring positive benefits.

It's a form of balance in reaching a new state of equilibrium better than people had before.

There is a term used by management experts to get this balance into their work. A dynamic equilibrium is the word used to combine change and stability. The word dynamic connotates change, whereas equilibrium brings into our mind the idea of stability.

What if we have to change? Why can't we change?

There are barriers people use to resist change. Among the common excuses for not making "necessary" changes include:

  1. Uncertainties about not knowing what the future will bring.
  2. Not willing to give up current benefits if they can't see the same or improved benefits through the change.
  3. Sometimes people haven't thought through the process.

Basically, people fear change because they can't see into the future to see the improvements.

Why the fear?

Don't be too surprised. People see on the news examples of change in organisations and not all the changes are good. For example, people's jobs can sometimes be cut. But if an organisation is built on solid socially-responsible principles and a solid base of quality and popular products, no one's job should be sacrificed. It should always be a reorganisation of people to perform things in a way that is better than before and with greater relevant to the marketplace.

For any organisation to lose people through the change means the organisation has focused itself too much on profit and a rigid hierarchical management structure and have not invested enough in its people and its customers to listen and become innovative and creative in finding new avenues to sell new products and services.

Managers must look at themselves and their organisations should the change cause fear in the people working under them.

How do we change?

The first thing to do is always make sure your know precisely what the goal you are trying to reach for through all the changes you are going to make will be. What exactly is it that you are trying to achieve by making these changes and affecting other people in the process? If the goal is worthwhile to reach for and is realistic and achievable as well as being of long-term benefit to many people (and not just yourself), begin the process of making the changes to help you and others reach the goal. Assuming the change is of a positive nature (as well as the goal) and will bring great benefits to everyone, you must first get together everyone who is likely to be affected by the change. Get them involved in the process. Make them feel important. Listen to their concerns and show how you can alleviate those concerns by showing the benefits as well as ways to help people feel more comfortable when making the changes. Let them ask all the questions they like. Never make them think the questions are dumb or anything like that. They are necessary to help people know what is going on and how the changes will bring greater benefit. Next, you should explain where the company is going (including how the goal fits into the scheme of things) and what it is doing now (to identify the differences between the present and what it will be like in the future when the goal is achieved), the type of changes needed and how it may affect everyone. Certainly those people who will be affected must be there to listen to the explanations and the future of the company and the goal you would like to reach for. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, paint the future of the benefits and all the greater stability that the change will bring to everyone.

Everyone has to see greater stability in their lives as well as a brighter future in the change. Then people will be happy to be part of the change in order to gain the benefits from the goal once it is achieved. And it must be positive and better than where they were before or currently.

Such long-term and far-reaching change requires careful planning at every step of the way (especially if there is going to be a significant transition) before any change can be implemented. Because change means moving away from a familiar position for many people. There will be some sacrifice in time, money and effort in making the change. But if the goal is good, the change will be worth it. Some people may find it stressful, but this is more the reason why the implementation of any change must be planned thoroughly to minimise the stress and make people believe the future will be better and brighter for everyone.

One cannot stress this aspect enough, especially in helping people to compare the past or present to the future through the new goal, and how important it is for all of us to make the change. And when we change, we do so by learning and applying what we have learned in everyday life (not just at work). This means we have to look at what we've done, what we are doing now, and how much better the improvement will be when we make the change. Then we do everything we can to learn in the simplest and easiest way possible, thereby ensuring a quicker transition to the new position. It is a planning process that always require the full and unwavering participation of everyone in the decision-making process (i.e. the ones who will need to change).

How do we know we need change? The strategies used to create change

The introduction of change should be a planned process. This means setting goals, gathering information, establishing promoting and restraining factors and then develop the plan or set of actions to help reach the goals.

To help see the importance of the change, management experts will often use tools like the Force Field Analysis diagram showing the equilibrium line of where the organisation is at and add to either side of the line all the promoting and restraining factors stopping the organisation reaching the desired position. Thus the diagram is aiming to teach us the importance of reducing the restraining forces and/or maximising the promoting forces so the organisation can move to the desired position.

Then there is the Lewin-Schein Change Process showing that there are ways for the manager to "unfreeze" the way people do things, then make the change, then doing the "refreezing" on the new ways. Training, modelling etc are what is often used to "unfreeze". Praise, rewards etc are the tools for "refreezing".

Other people use similar models for the change process. It is essentially a three part process model.

What's the best way to learn?

When we change, we may have to learn new skills. However, it is important for the manager to ensure there is quality in all learning done so that in future the amount of learning required for any further changes is not as great. The aim should be to look at the essence of things and do quality learning of what it takes to deal with them. Then the staff can do minor learning in future for the minor and relatively new things that appear (i.e. the superficial changes).

How do we really know the change is good?

We don't really know until we try. But always take it in small "reversible" steps in case the change is not a good thing.

But remember, staying where you are can also be a dangerous thing as well.

This is where the problem lies. The problem is that if you make it too easy to change people, people will jump too easily into something they may regret later. Furthermore, being half-committed can also be dangerous if the change is a positive one. It can also be dangerous to stay where you are.

In the end it depends on what type of change is being committed to the people and making sure that change is based on sound research, quality decision-making etc. It must show the clear benefit to people in making the changes. Otherwise, change can be a dangerous concept in itself.

Can I get help to make the change?

Yes you can. There are people called outside and internal change agents to help improve the problem-solving and renewal process of an organisation. Internal change agents (e.g. a new manager or a permanent new staff). External change agents (a management consultant, or contract short-term staff).

More about goals

A real and meaningful goal is something you are interested in and want to achieve. It shouldn't be something that you are forced to do as some R-wing people would prefer to see, such as finding where your next meal will be. The goal must be realistic, yet adequately creative enough to be able to change yourself and society towards a more balanced way of living.

You should not be dictated by others to try a certain goal they already know the outcome will be. This will not change society. It will merely maintain the current system. Do something different, something that no one has ever tried before. As John F. Kennedy said to the American public in the 1960s: 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.' So ask yourself what you can achieve in your life for the benefit of everyone. What type of goal should you reach for? The goal must be as positive as you can make it so that enough people including yourself can see the benefits.

What kind of goal(s) should you create?

It doesn't matter what it is. There are an infinite number of positive goal(s) we can all implement. If you need ideas, society should permit people tovisit places and see what people are doing and how they are doing it. Then you will get ideas of the sorts of goals you may wish to achieve for yourself.

The shear abundance of potential goals will ensure that you will never be lost to find at least one positive goal in life.

And why positive goals?

For people in poverty and with limited education and skills, there is only one law they need to follow for simplicity sake. All other seemingly complex laws created by humankind are there to help promote this fundamental law. If, as a civilised society, we have learned anything from the religious scriptures, psychologists and in watching other people and their interactions with all living things, the first and most fundamental principle we should all be following is the principle of love.

Love is just another term for being positive and showing that positive feeling towards others around you through the things you do.

Will your goals bring positive benefits to everyone in the long-term when you implement them?

But I am not creative enough to find a goal. What can I do?

That's okay. Society in its present form has been relying too heavily on rational L-brain skills for so long that not everyone will be immediately creative in finding a goal of their own.

If you are one of those people, then do the thing other L-brain people love to do, which is to try the things other people are already doing. The technique of emulating or becoming familiar with the things people do, how they dress and what they say will help you immensely to develop the confidence and skills in doing those things. When you become an expert, you may later have ideas of what else you can do for society by seeing what it is that's missing and needs to be done, perhaps even create your own niche market. And if not, certainly how to do those things you are doing now better will become increasingly apparent to you over time.

This is what creativity is about.

We see this kind of behaviour all the time when we observe how a son learns the skills of his father (e.g. fishing, driving a car, kicking a football, learning to use a computer etc). Eventually the son will become better than his father because of his inherent creativity to find a better and more interesting way. The same is true for all L-brain people who need some inspiration by watching and learning from someone else.

If you need more help. Consider what some religious people do: they will create an image of an entity called God having various ideal and balanced qualities they want to emulate. So imagine yourself what the most balanced person would look like and then you will begin to know what it is you believe is important to reach for.

For millenia religious men and women have learned the power of God as a tool for reaching a goal. By imagining and implementing what we see through this goal, we can achieve long-lasting and meaningful relationships and achieve greater human development. This remains true so long as the men and women are not dictated to or influenced by other men and women who claim to know God (i.e. false leaders). God is meant to be a personal concept for you to accept, understand, and apply in your life.

But you don't need to be associated with any specific religion created by humans to appreciate this power. Its purpose is clear. It is a goal for you to reach for and should be based on the principle of love to be seen as truly part of God.

What happens when I find my goal?

Well done! You have achieved an important milestone in your life. You have something to work towards. Excellent!

In the ideal balanced world, finding a positive and worthwhile goal should be enough to give you access to all the things you need to survive and all the relevant services and "recycled" products required to help you achieve your goal(s).

Your goal is really your life's employment. You are the employer in control of your own destiny. And you are the employee going out to achieve it. You should be applying the principles of self-management at this point in achieving your goal(s).

Unfortunately our current world is not balanced. It is too L-brain. And as such you need to perform other employment to satisfy others of your worth before you can achieve what you think is important.

This is a shortcoming of a L-brain society, and certainly not an indication that you and your goal(s) are not worthy. It is just that society hasn't got enough faith to support what you wish to achieve.

So achieve your goal(s) quietly and in your spare time. And show what society is missing.

Should we impose our goal(s) on others?

What happens when we see others without a goal of their own? Should we impose our goal(s) on others?

It is better not to force people to accept our goal(s), no matter how right we think it is and how many people appear to benefit from it. Any attempt to do so would only reveal our insecurities to others and may create social problems. And anyway, for all we know, our own goal(s) could be highly imbalanced (i.e. not the best solution to a given problem). So to avoid imposing our own bias on others through interference, we must allow people to use their own creativity to find a goal of their own kind. Of course, in a company, this is different. People who work in the company usually don't have any choice but to accept the goal of those in a position of power and influence. But hopefully, such a goal will be positive and beneficial for everyone. Sure, this is not always possible. But if managers and leaders of a company are genuinely experts and understand people, they will think long-term and ensure everyone in the company has a bright future no matter what the goals are and where the company will be in 3, 5, 10 or more years from now.

How do we entice people to find a goal?

It certainly should not be in the domain of managers and leaders to establish goals. Everyone can create goals for themselves. As an incentive for everyone to start creating a goal (whether personally, or to help the company or other people in some way), make sure people are guaranteed their survival needs will be met no matter what they are doing now to ensure their survival.

Next, give people different experiences of what's happening in society, the company or wherever. In this way, people start to realize what needs to be done or can see ways of doing things better for the benefit of others. And give people enough time to see the big picture of what everyone is trying to do and the goals they are reaching for.

Soon a point comes in people's lives when they will understand and see what needs to be done and do it in a way that is more motivating and interesting for them so that the passion to do things for others is there and will be maintained for a long time. Make sure people are able to apply their creativity to know how to do things in a better way.

Now encourage these people to discuss the goals they wish to reach for, what changes need to be made, and discuss the benefits in the making the changes. Will the changes and the goal end up being better than before?

Once society (the company) or whoever sees the benefit in the goals, let people begin the process of implementing the changes until the goals are attained. Once people are working toward their goals, there is no need to give extra incentive such as money to do things. People will just go ahead and do it, all on their own (or with other people). Just ensure at the very least that everything people need to survive is provided for. Everything else should be considered something to be borrowed temporarily to help attain the goal in a quicker way.

NOTE 1: Perhaps the day will come when people will realize there is no need for money as an incentive to get people to do things for one another. If what you believe you wish to do will help other people (and you should get evidence of this to support your claim), you should not have scrounge around to receive the money to achieve your goals. It should be provided for automatically to cover the costs for the things we need to survive. Better still, there should be no money. Just show you have achieved something to help reach your goals and you should receive the essential items you need to survive, including food and a roof over your head. And it society has learned anything about recycling, all these things should be readily available and very cheap for modest quantities deemed reasonable for each person. That is where all economic systems should be headed to ensure their existence and support of the people in that society.

NOTE 2: Food should be seen as a greater priority than money and it should be made readily available and at low cost and of the highest quality possible (i.e. a healthy mind and body).

If society cannot meet these needs for you, there is a problem with society, not you. Perhaps there are too many people in the world, many of whom have seen the benefits of the economic system in becoming greedy as so wish to make as much money as possible rather than focusing on the quality of their goals and ensuring they are of benefit to everyone. Instead most people are too obsessed with meeting any quick short-term goal such as making enough money without thinking of the long-term consequences of their. Remember, society must be able to meet your needs (whether through some form of welfare when you are in the process of figuring out and creating your goals, or finding/creating the jobs that will see society support you). If society cannot achieve this, the system created and supported by society and the people living in the society is on the verge of collapse (and many are blind to this eventual outcome). It is just a question of time, accelerated by the wrong set of circumstances that will eventually push society over the edge and with no means of returning to the same position ever again. Until then, the right path with a heart that a truly compassionate and long-term thinking society should follow is one where all people are supported for their needs not matter what their circumstances are. So long as people are willing to learn and do things for one another and achieve great worthwhile goals, there is no need to use the carrot or the stick approach to force people to do things. It will happen naturally.

If such a society (or company) exists, your needs will always be met while choosing a goal you are interested in and feel confident you can achieve. This is enough of an incentive for you to do things. Eventually, you will return the favour to society with your incredible new insights and ways of doing things which no one else has done before And that is what will save society enormous amounts of money in the long term, which means you will benefit from greater rewards from society thanks to your achievement.

At what point should we stop searching for a goal?

Do we ever stop searching and reaching for a goal? Most people with a goal to achieve will usually not stop working towards it for the rest of their lives. There would be no such thing as retirement if you don't want it.

If your goal has been achieved and is significant enough, there should be a point where society should acknowledge it by saying you do not have to persist with it or be asked to try more goals. Why? Usually the person who has achieved a goal will already have the skills to search for another goal on his/her own. But even if he/she doesn't, so what? Enough has been achieved. So let people have what they need to survive and be comfortable for the rest of their lives. Let them help other people achieve different goals, or to relax and contemplate things. Then new solutions will arrive or a longer term benefit, and ones that will transform society and help everyone to see a brighter future.

We have to bear in mind that there are literally millions of other people around the world who can also achieve goals and it is not necessary for one person to do absolutely everything for everyone else. The shear numbers of people in the world should be enough to see solutions found for so many problems and the implementation of such solutions made big enough to affect the whole planet in a positive way. Just so long as we support them by meeting their needs, give them experiences, and let them learn for themselves, they will know what to do.

And this issue of spending megabucks on law enforcement as R-wing people are being forced to contend with today should become a thing of the past because people with goals whose needs are properly met don't have time to go around doing the wrong things for society. If there are goals and people have turn them into positive goals to reach for, there is no other path they can take except in the positive direction.

Through a more balanced and sustainable system like this, we can on the one hand satisfy the ideas of R-wing people in the sense that people must find something to do (i.e. find and achieve goal(s)) in return for support from society. And on the other hand, we satisfy the ideas of L-wing people in the sense that people will not be left behind fighting for their survival and so burden society in other areas.

You must remember that we have brought you into this world and have allowed others to do the same because we love you We understand you are an important person in society. You are special. You deserve the things you need to survive. And all we ask of you is to consider creating a path in your own life that will ultimately benefit humanity in some way for us to appreciate. It means simply to find a goal to reach for, because this is how you become a more balanced and loving person in this universe over time as you learn everything there is about reaching the goal and how to get there. And is the way we develop hope for the future in all living things.