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Thriving during corporate change

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 3, 2014 06:00 AM

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CEO successions, mergers and acquisitions, and a company’s growth can all be exciting experiences if approached with the proper attitude. Change is a process that occurs in stages. Yet, people often refuse to accept change due to an apprehension of the unfamiliar, which results in a clinging to status quo approaches that may be increasingly inefficient. Methods, such as the Transtheoretical Model promoted by James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., a globally prominent expert on planned change, address how individuals and organizations can move forward during the process of change to make a particular course of action a successful venture.

People and companies that are facing change should utilize strategies that:

  • Examine the effects of the change;

  • Groom onlookers for the change; and

  • Are based on realistic objectives.

Examining the effects of change is a prudent step towards ensuring individual and organizational success. All businesses must adapt to the marketplace and the passage of time. Consequently, change is an inevitable part of a company’s existence. A business that continues to do things as they have always been done will eventually lose market share and its relevance in the marketplace. Thus, ambitious employees and vibrant companies should always compare the status quo with proposed changes understanding that change is an inevitable experience.

Mandatory corporate changes, such as the replacement of a CEO approaching retirement require an organization and its members to respond in either a passive or proactive manner. Acceptance is essentially the only option when obligatory changes occur in a business. Accordingly, an individual’s corresponding strategies and tactics should emphasize the inescapable consequences that come with change. Focusing on the positive outcomes that will come from corporate change will minimize individual and institutional apprehension. In short, it is best to apply the concept put forward by Lao-Tzu, a prominent thinker from the past, which is to “Let reality be reality.

Grooming participants and onlookers for change is important because change can unsettle people. As a result, it is often necessary for change to be introduced slowly. A sudden change may make staff and spectators suspicious. Consequently, organizational leaders should remember that their well researched ideas may appear sudden to observers that have not been part of the deliberation process. For that reason, individuals and organizations should address the predictable concerns that people experience when faced with change. Addressing the foreseeable responses to change will ensure organizational enthusiasm for the corporate change.

People must understand a change prior to being told that a change is good. Thus, sharing information in a straightforward way will minimize rumor creation based on fear. People also want to know how change will affect them personally. Fittingly, personal concerns of individuals that are part of the organization should be tackled head on to allow people to fully comprehend what they will lose and gain with the change. In consequence, companies should be mindful of revealing changes in an incremental manner that highlights how the changes will be put into practice.

Successful corporate change is based on realistic objectives. An organization that has explained to its members how change will be implemented will enjoy staff support that allows an initiative to move forward. Additionally, internal and external onlookers must be sold on the benefits of the corporate change. As a result, intelligent collaboration between staff and management is a requisite to forming an environment conducive to supporting corporate changes. A collaborative process of change will build trust within an organization, entail ample time for all participants to manage personal concerns, and build momentum for the realization of the corporate change.

Realistic objectives decrease fear and increase the probability of success. Consequently, selecting the appropriate metrics to monitor organizational change will help indicate the progress towards desired organizational goals. CEO successions, mergers and acquisitions, and a company’s growth are all changes that can cause fearful reactions. However, implementing the proper strategies is essential for ensuring institutional and individual support for the proposed corporate changes. Behavior and practices account for a majority of organizational shortcomings. Thus, a realistic view of the motivations and perceptions of an organization’s stakeholders is imperative for corporate change to be successful.

A one-size fits all approach to managing corporate change will not be an effective solution. Corporate change should be based on the organization’s type, size, and history. Moreover, to achieve a successful corporate change, feedback from a company’s staff is essential. Likewise, organizational leaders must manage the creation of a sense of urgency, while developing clear metrics tied to business performance that will visibly show that the corporate change is working.

Corporate change is a complex process that mandates the collective engagement of staff and management to minimize fear, while fostering confidence in a new era of success. Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Greek philosopher known for doctrines, such as “There is nothing permanent except change,” and “All is flux, nothing is stationary.” Thus, organizations and individuals will benefit most when they accept that opportunity lies in embracing change.

Lennox Chase is an attorney that sits on the board of directors for Needham Bank and serves on the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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