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Change management in workplaces

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By Cheryl A McKenzie

All around us, change occurs regularly and rapidly, affecting the way we perform and live our lives. Leaders are always searching for tools to implement changes more smoothly and to have those changes better accepted. Evolution is a constant in many areas of our lives.

This understanding of how change is implemented and managing reactions to change will be the difference between success or not.

Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. Pauline R. Kezer

A simple definition of change is “to cause to be different”.  Unlike change management on a personal level, which has been studied for more than one hundred years,  it is only since the mid- 1980’s that change management has been explored within the context of business applications.

Today’s change management initiatives have become a business discipline, driving bottom-line results through changes in systems and behaviours. Managing change is now considered a critical skill, both for leadership — and for workers.

We find that people are more open to change than many of us have been lead to believe.  A quick question around the room will demonstrate how many times and how frequently we have changed our phone, home, car, our relationship, hairdresser and even our eating habits, fitness regime and job.

So how is it that some changes occur with minimal effort and others are just baffling?

Let’s explore the FOUR PILLARS required to achieve sustained change.

  1. Critical to managing change is creating a Strategy which will define the approach consistent with the needs of the organisation. The strategy serves as a unique guiding framework to provide direction and shape decision making throughout the change process.
  2. Collaboration and consultation occur on the Systems that will need to undergo change and how they may be redefined or developed to accommodate the new expectations and deliverables. Systems that do not automatically support the new behaviours are often the cause of lack of take
  3. We also know, for change to occur smoothly, participants in the growth must display a high degree of Skill in six essential elements:
  • Commitment
  • Contribution
  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Conflict management
  • Connection

We often think of the above skillset to be the domain of “Leaders.” we also see that top-down type of thinking leads to disengaged employees. Not only do these universal skills create greater efficiency in non-change times, but they are also fundamental to removing change blocks.

  1. The last area of change that is more often than not overlooked and has been at the heart of many a failed change attempt is the Situation. What is happening right now in the business and how well does this New Change fit? There are two specific factors of the situation that we need to consider about our culture: Resilience and Flexibility.

Resiliency is the capacity to absorb a high level of change while maintaining a level of performance and displaying minimal dysfunctional behaviour.

One can practice workplace behaviours and take steps to create more resilient organisational cultures.

  • Develop a more Positive worldview and self-concept
  • Maintaining a Focused sense of purpose for long-term goals and priorities
  • Use Flexible thinking to explore multiple approaches for addressing uncertainty.
  • Use Organised, structured approaches when managing ambiguity
  • Experiment proactively with new methods and solutions

People shift between sides on a resilience continuum, depending upon the characteristics exhibited, and the change experienced. Resilience is not a characteristic of an individual so much as it is a series of thoughts, actions and traits.

Flexibility is two dimentional flexibility of thinking, and social flexibility.

  • Flexible Thinking: People who generate a wide range of thoughts and possible responses. Not feeling compelled to decide on one answer straight away. They have a tolerance for entertaining ambiguity and a high level of creativity, which allows them to tackle problems from many different directions.
  • Social Flexibility: People with a high degree of social flexibility have a clear sense of their strengths and weaknesses. They have a self-concept not easily threatened. They quickly reach out to others for collaboration and work toward building social networks. They have no problem reaching out to explore how others can add value and support. Organisations with high social flexibility have little or no silo thinking.

Flexibility on a personal and social level is critical for individuals involved in change, fundamental to being able to make necessary shifts. Structures within the organisation will determine the social flexibility of the culture. Social flexibility is where we will often see high functioning teams and work-based, rather than role-based decisions.


Cheryl A McKenzie is a leading Change and Engagement Specialist and soon to be author with the release of her book UNLEASH! The Vision: An abundance mindset approach to organisational transformation. You can contact her on LinkedIn.

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