Manage the Uncertainty of Change Posted In: Project Management 7 Jun 2010

(This is the second in a series of articles inspired by the book Why teams don’t work by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley)

Change causes uncertainty, and uncertainty can cause angst and negative feelings.  Managing change well involves putting at ease the concerns and fears of those impacted by the change.

Whether you are an external consultant helping a company through a change process or you are leading an internal team experiencing change; you will notice some or all of these aspects that you need to manage:

  • People feel awkward, ill at ease and self-conscious.  In a process of change we are leaving what is certain and known, to what is uncertain and unknown.  That can leave those in the change process feeling ill at ease.
  • People will think first about what they must give up (and think it negative).  It is natural to fill a void with negative thoughts; as the team leader you must do all that you can to make the outcome of the change to be thought of as a positive move.
  • People will feel alone.  Avoid individual team members feeling isolated – be sure to encourage discussion of what each individual is feeling and thinking about the change process.
  • People can handle only so much change.  If you get through one process and then start another you cause mistrust.  You must be aware of change fatigue!
  • People have different readiness for change.  Simply put – not every one moves at the same pace; manage each individual according to their needs and responses to the change process.
  • People will fret that they don’t have enough resources.  When managing a change process – part of the management is to make sure the new process is correctly resourced.  This is both for on-going jobs and tasks as well as the change process itself.
  • If you take the pressure off, people will revert to their old habits.  I’ve seen a change process involving the implementation of a new finance system, when the new system was supposed to be being used the staff carried on using the old invoicing system.

 

Managing the uncertainty around a change process can be difficult.  As a leader in the change process you must be aware of the concerns individuals will have and create an environment that alleviates their fears and where the change is both lasting and effective.