Managing Change or Engaging People?
1999, Hershey’s new planning and management software system
start-up problems cost the company $150 million. That same year,
FoxMeyer Corporation bungled a major equipment upgrade, which led
to a $1 billion lawsuit that ended in the company’s bankruptcy.1
is not just about the software or the new equipment. You must
also figure into your change initiative how
you are going
to bring your employees on board. What’s your investment
in how your people fit into the new process? Whatever your new
initiative, you can only get it off to a great start if you also
must change how they think.
must change how they act.
must buy into the importance of the new initiative.
How can you make this happen? Here are five steps to help your
organization cope with change.
Set the stage Heighten the sense of urgency. Identify what
the current process is costing your organization. One executive
put piles and piles of office supplies on a boardroom table to
demonstrate the inefficiencies in the purchasing process so that
management could see what they were allowing to happen.
Get the buy-in Help your employees see and feel the change. Another
company president assembled teams from each
and gave them pieces of colored string, each department’s
color representing their part of the configuration of the system.
Teams connected the strings to the departments who supplied them
and whom they supplied. The resulting multi-colored web demonstrated
visibly how the whole business was interconnected, how finance
supported production, HR, etc. This President was able to present
a clear picture of an efficient enterprise while showing at the
same time that collaboration and integration were so critical to
Let them do it Once people can see where they are going, you
need to build momentum by empowering and enabling
the entire organization.
This is one of the most crucial times to communicate, communicate,
communicate. Appeal to people’s emotions; provide sincere
and candid statements about how the project is going.
Walk the talk Successful leaders also remove barriers to
change by fixing inadequate information systems,
letting the manager go
who can’t empower his/her staff, and boosting employees’ self-confidence.
To quell anxiety and boost confidence, a new CEO called all 200
employees into a meeting where he told them about a similar project
he had undertaken at another company. He showed numerous charts
illustrating clearly how the similar process changed in his former
company and made it more efficient. He even projected videos of
employees at that former company talking about their visions and
hopes before the change, and then their exuberance actually living
the vision in the new organization. Most importantly, he answered
employees’ questions honestly and directly, and reassured
them that change of this size had happened before and resulted
in no loss of jobs.2
Keep on keeping on Monitor, reinforce, remove barriers, show
the vision, talk the talk and walk the walk. Rely
more on “show” and
less on “tell”. To be sure that his vision became reality,
one plant manager made sure that he learned the new software himself,
and began asking questions that could only be answered by using
the new software. He found 1/3 of the management were using the
software, 1/3 were using it sometimes, and 1/3 hadn’t started.
To address this, he asked those using the system to focus on the
others using it more. He worked directly with the non-users, offering
more ways to learn it, and showing that this was the way things
were going to work in this company now.
The managers who create success are those who understand that
their employees are as important to successful change as the purchase
and placement of the new equipment.
Laurie Gungel, Director, Business Institute of Highland Community
Alignment Factor: Addressing Change as a ‘People
Challenge’ “ by Catherine J. Rezal, Paradigm Learning,
2701 North Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607 as featured in
2 “Why Change is an Affair of the Heart” by
Dan S. Cohen in December 1, 2005 CIO Magazine
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