Lessons Learned in Change Management – It’s in the Details

A year and a half ago I was told that I would be working on a project involving the acquisition of a smaller business for one of our clients.  We would have approximately six months to complete the transition, which involved bringing over the entire existing staff from the other company (about 50 people).  Though we had a 10 year relationship with the client that extended over several of their business units, this particular business had been outsourced to another company and we did not have knowledge of the processes.  I was warned this transition would be tricky for these reasons, but I did not understand the magnitude of the details that needed to be addressed in order for things to run smoothly.

As mentioned in my initial post on change management, people are the most dynamic and challenging aspect of any change.  In order for a change to be effectively implemented, two things must occur: the people must trust the project team and perceptions of change must be managed.  In order for people to trust in what you are saying, your actions must match your words and the communication needs to be consistent and honest.  In addition, the leadership team or most influential members of the team must be involved in the planning.  If those seen as the most influential trust those implementing the change, the majority of the other employees will follow.

Change can be very scary to people.  Tending to those fears by listening to the employees is key.  They should have a direct way of contacting the project team with questions or concerns as it is important to remain open in an effort to ease unrest.  In addition, it is important to remember to not overlook the small details of what might be considered important to the employees.  For example, a change in how they report hours or if they will still sit in the same spot as opposed to change of greater magnitude, such as management staff or compensation.

Initially my vision of the transition was based on a much broader picture of the situation where we would learn about the processes they were responsible for and the employees would just be happy to still have a job.  I quickly realized that there were a lot more details that I would need to tend to in order to actually manage the change effectively.  In retrospect, although the transition was ultimately successful, it could have been a less painful had I understood the importance of acknowledging that all details are important, no matter how big or small, in ensuring the needs of employees are met.

If you were undergoing a change within your organization, what are some of the details you would want your leadership team to pay attention to?

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