Tweak Your Biz » Growth » Stumped by Change Management? (Part I)

Stumped by Change Management? (Part I)



Every time something changes, something starts – and something else comes to an end.  Think about your life so far:  birth, school, work, redundancy, marriage, relocation, separation.  Each time you encountered one of life’s inevitable changes, something began while something else ended.

In business and worklife, the same simple equation applies (c=e+b).  Changes are made up of endings and beginnings.  Upscaling, downsizing, merging, diversifying, divesting – they all begin with an ending somewhere.  These endings may be regarded as positive, negative  or both!  Either way, these endings mark the first stage of transition that people go through as they leave the old way behind and move towards the new.  If you would like to understand more about the vital role of human transitions in change management,  Managing Transitions by William Bridges is a seminal work.

Negative endings cause us losses

Negative endings cause us losses

Negative endings cause us losses.  Such losses may be minor and manageable or they may be mind-numbing and incapacitating.  They may be anywhere in between the two.

These losses can strongly impact our view – both of ourselves and of the changing situation around us.  Our reaction to ( and our ability to cope with)  these losses,  is highly individual to us.  The same loss that devastates one of our colleagues might not affect us as much, or at all,  for a myriad of reasons.

The impact felt depends solely on the perception of the person suffering the loss.

Management TipIf your change initiative is frozen or failing, you are probably still stuck in the first stage of transition – you need to identify what endings and losses people have had to face, assess how they are coping, and understand how to manage them forward.

Typical losses caused by workplace endings might include, for example, changed or vanished relationships; diminished status; reduced responsibilities; and decreased benefits.

The short-term effect of experiencing such losses often manifests itself in the feelings described by the Kubler Ross grief cycle.  These can include shock, immobilisation, denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Anyone who has been in a workplace when a redundancy programme has been announced can vouch for this phenomenon – in both the victims and survivors.

On top of that you can usually bet that someone who is trying to cope with negative losses – and the feelings they create – is also probably experiencing other deep-seated emotions such as embarrassment, shame, wounded self-esteem, and maybe even desperation.

Have you ever seen someone ‘acting out’ in a workplace, and perhaps behaving quite out of character?  What endings and losses might they have been tackling?


Losses may be mind-numbing and incapacitating

Losses may be mind-numbing and incapacitating

One of the big challenges for managers who are planning and implementing change initiatives is that this is neither a linear nor a sequential human process.  Moreover, individuals in the same office or department can and do go through these cycles of feelings and emotions at different times and at different rates.  Some get through this first phase of transition quickly.  For others, even the slightest knock-back can send them back to their comfort zone where they strive to maintain their status-quo and may fiercely resist all efforts to change.

In Part II we’ll explore how business managers can avoid becoming stumped and frustrated by their organisation’s change efforts.  We’ll also consider some things that people who are struggling to cope with the effects of change can do to support themselves and their colleagues through tough transitions.



The Author:

Miriam is a certified management consultant who specialises in organisational development, change management and general management practice. She founded Align Management Solutions in 2001. If you find yourself stuck, frustrated or a bit lost in your business, Miriam can help you find your way back to progress and profitability. http://www.alignmanagement.net

Add Your Comment

  • http://www.mikeslife.org Mike CJ

    Change management is a fascinating subject, and I'm looking forward to part 2. From personal experience, I think one of the most common failures when implementing change is for the management to fail to first deconstruct the status quo, or present situation.It's all well and good coming up with a great new plan or strategy, but you first have to explain why you've done so to the team, and why the current strategy isn't working, before you can get them to really buy in to the new one. This step is commonly missed out, and often results in a lacklustre effort.

  • http://www.mikeslife.org Mike CJ

    Change management is a fascinating subject, and I’m looking forward to part 2. From personal experience, I think one of the most common failures when implementing change is for the management to fail to first deconstruct the status quo, or present situation.

    It’s all well and good coming up with a great new plan or strategy, but you first have to explain why you’ve done so to the team, and why the current strategy isn’t working, before you can get them to really buy in to the new one. This step is commonly missed out, and often results in a lacklustre effort.

  • miriamahern

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments Mike. Your insights are absolutely spot-on I have often thought that failing to explain the rationale behind the new strategy is symptomatic of management not really understanding it or buying into it themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments Mike. Your insights are absolutely spot-on I have often thought that failing to explain the rationale behind the new strategy is symptomatic of management not really understanding it or buying into it themselves.

  • kalatech

    Very good article. Change Management is an important cog to the whole process of transition with the vital component being acceptance by humans. Looking forward to part II.

  • Anonymous

    Very good article. Change Management is an important cog to the whole process of transition with the vital component being acceptance by humans. Looking forward to part II.

  • nialldevitt

    Miriam, I don't think we anywhere near grasp what a destructive force the fear of change has on business. Honestly the clients I struggle to deal with the most with are also those that fear change the most. This is a great post, very insightful. I am looking forward to part two.It's about time we had your wisdom on here :)

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Miriam, I don’t think we anywhere near grasp what a destructive force the fear of change is on business. Honestly the clients I struggle to deal with the most are also those that fear change the most. This is a great post, very insightful. I am looking forward to part two…..It’s about time we had your wisdom on here :)

  • JackieGowran

    My own experience of Change Management, from both sides of the equation (i.e. in my own work life & working with clients) as been reflective of the stages that Miriam has so eloquently explained. Critically my experience has been that “Change” is a part of life & is a personal experience. Experienced differently by everyone involved. It needs acknowledgment and open communication that is not often in keeping with the culture of the organisation experiencing the “Change” and so often there is the steep learning curve of improved communication behaviours also to contend with, which can bring up underlying issues that have been dormant for years. Change can be a struggle and have marked steps and stages, the outcome can be rewarding and allow for new growth for everyone involved, it is a process and one that needs to be approached in that way.

  • Jackie Gowran

    My own experience of Change Management, from both sides of the equation (i.e. in my own work life & working with clients) as been reflective of the stages that Miriam has so eloquently explained. Critically my experience has been that “Change” is a part of life & is a personal experience. Experienced differently by everyone involved. It needs acknowledgment and open communication that is not often in keeping with the culture of the organisation experiencing the “Change” and so often there is the steep learning curve of improved communication behaviours also to contend with, which can bring up underlying issues that have been dormant for years.

    Change can be a struggle and have marked steps and stages, the outcome can be rewarding and allow for new growth for everyone involved, it is a process and one that needs to be approached in that way.

  • http://twitter.com/aileen456 aileen456

    I ignored this post and filed it under 'touchy feely' as I thrive on change. I don't know what made me look at it again, but I can see how it is important to pay attention to how it affects others in the business. Thanks for this.

  • http://twitter.com/aileen456 aileen456

    I ignored this post and filed it under ‘touchy feely’ as I thrive on change. I don’t know what made me look at it again, but I can see how it is important to pay attention to how it affects others in the business. Thanks for this.

  • miriamahern

    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. Will be posting part II soon

  • miriamahern

    You make an excellent point Jackie. In my experience most managers get very uncomfortable when the acknowledgement and open communication that you speak of will most probably open up issues of a highly-emotional nature. They tend to be comfortable up to a certain 'arms length' when dealing with organisational issues and falsely think that 'it's better not to go there' when opening things up involves dealing with workers' intense feelings. Heaven forbid – someone might even begin to cry or get angry and what do you do then? It's a sort of organisational ostrich syndrome. Much better to teach managers how to get out of their comfort zone and deal with people who are in crisis. This could save them spending months if not years struggling with protracted change programmes which are stuck because the real issues have never been dealt with and their people have become entrenched.

  • miriamahern

    Thank you very much, Aileen, for your candid feedback and very valuable insight. If you see my response to Jackie above, the very reason why many change programmes get stuck is that many managers find it easier to skip over what they see as the 'touchy feely' stuff. However, in the context of change programmes, the touchy-feely stuff – if not dealt with – can quickly become a deadly silent killer of change implementation. I'm very gratified that you came back for a second look.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. Will be posting part II soon

  • Jackie Gowran

    I can only agree with Miriam's sentiments that it can get skipped over by putting it into the “touchy feely' category. It gets put conveniently into the denial element of our lives or put it in the “emotional box”. Perhaps it is time that “Change Management” was recognised as an emotional, developmental and challenging issue. What is so extraordinary about the ordinary element of change of being emotional? We are after all, human and have emotional responses to everything, especially change. It challenges our beliefs, it challenges our goals, it challenges our ethics, I could go on……… The good news is that by facing the challenge with an open mind we can grow and develop our business in ways that we did not consider possible. The added advantage is that our emotional growth benefits our personal as well as business life. Signing off ……….

  • Anonymous

    You make an excellent point Jackie. In my experience most managers get very uncomfortable when the acknowledgement and open communication that you speak of will most probably open up issues of a highly-emotional nature. They tend to be comfortable up to a certain ‘arms length’ when dealing with organisational issues and falsely think that ‘it’s better not to go there’ when opening things up involves dealing with workers’ intense feelings. Heaven forbid – someone might even begin to cry or get angry and what do you do then? It’s a sort of organisational ostrich syndrome. Much better to teach managers how to get out of their comfort zone and deal with people who are in crisis. This could save them spending months if not years struggling with protracted change programmes which are stuck because the real issues have never been dealt with and their people have become entrenched.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much, Aileen, for your candid feedback and very valuable insight. If you see my response to Jackie above, the very reason why many change programmes get stuck is that many managers find it easier to skip over what they see as the ‘touchy feely’ stuff. However, in the context of change programmes, the touchy-feely stuff – if not dealt with – can quickly become a deadly silent killer of change implementation. I’m very gratified that you came back for a second look.

  • Jackie Gowran

    I can only agree with Miriam’s sentiments that it can get skipped over by putting it into the “touchy feely’ category. It gets put conveniently into the denial element of our lives or put it in the “emotional box”. Perhaps it is time that “Change Management” was recognised as an emotional, developmental and challenging issue. What is so extraordinary about the ordinary element of change of being emotional?

    We are after all, human and have emotional responses to everything, especially change. It challenges our beliefs, it challenges our goals, it challenges our ethics, I could go on……… The good news is that by facing the challenge with an open mind we can grow and develop our business in ways that we did not consider possible. The added advantage is that our emotional growth benefits our personal as well as business life. Signing off ……….

  • nialldevitt

    Miriam, interestingly, I think there is a certain synergy with this post http://tweakyourbiz.com/talkingleadership/2009/1… Pay attention to the comments :)

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Miriam, interestingly, I think there is a certain synergy with this post

    http://tweakyourbiz.com/talkingleadership/2009/11/24/authentic-leadership/

    Pay attention to the comments :)

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Miriam, interestingly, I think there is a certain synergy with this post http://tweakyourbiz.com/talkingleadership/2009/1… Pay attention to the comments :)