Is change a friend or foe?
Everyone knows that people respond differently to challenging situations. To some extent this is owing to their individual experience. As managers we need to manage change positively, showing emotional intelligence in dealing sensitively with people’s concerns. Change management is as much about people as it is about planning the change.
Change in the working environment can be particularly stressful; both for those who need to accept the change and for those who need to implement it.
It’s amazing how seemingly small changes can cause feelings to run high within an organisation.
Take for example something as simple as office layout. I know of a very large organisation which was moving into a new building. In the old building each employee had an individual, albeit very small, office with a lockable door. Even though the old facilities were dingy, crowded and lacking in central amenities such as break out rooms, a communal room for eating lunch and having coffee, photocopying and scanning facilities, access to administrative and technical help, and so on, people had become very attached to their small offices.
When it was discovered that the new building was entirely ‘open plan’, there was a massive uproar of discontent! People who were used to their tiny offices held protest meetings, vented their anger in work-related online forums, and demanded that individual cubicles be installed instead of the new open space environment. Having spent (in many cases), years in a familiar environment they weren’t willing to give open plan working a try.
Different experiences mean different responses to change
Interestingly, another group of workers in the same company had already been in an open plan environment for some time. Since the existing building had been too small, this new department had been housed in rented office accommodation nearby for a full three years, while the new building was being planned and constructed. Since it was a new department, for most of the employees this was the only working environment they had known while at the firm. Having experienced it, they could see all the benefits of an open plan environment.
They saw open plan as a more flexible environment which fostered team working. They enjoyed the camaraderie generated by shared coffee/tea making facilities, the shared access to the technical and administrative teams, and the range of break out rooms of varying sizes for meetings and informal discussions.
Managing the transition
In this case, management decided to use the experience of the ‘open plan’ group to win over the ‘small office’ group. At the protest meetings people in the ‘open plan’ group were invited to present their positive experiences of open plan working, and to answer questions posed by those who were worried about giving up their offices. In time, the ‘small office’ group agreed to give the new office space a fair trial – on condition that management agreed that individuals could have screens or partitions installed around their desks if after a time they found the open plan environment too distracting.
Training in change management
Change management training can provide the tools and strategies needed to successfully and sensitively manage change within an organisation. Illumine’s change training course offers a range of strategies for managing change effectively.
We also offer additional guidance for the managers of those who attend our Effective Change Management course, enabling them to support the delegates as they return to their organisations, and start to think and work differently.