Change management is a field of work designed to help businesses and individuals negotiate the inevitable changes that will affect their companies and careers over time. These may be purposeful changes, such as a business merger or a transfer to a new job, that require adjustment and reorganization for an employer or employee. Change may also mean coping with outside changes such as a falling or rising economy, the challenge of a new competitor, or new laws affecting a business or an industry. Change management can also help ease employee transitions to new technology, new company policies, or internal restructuring.
The underlying principles of change management is that the process of change itself is as important as the specific type of change and that businesses and workers can experience a more positive outcome if they confront issues of change in advance rather than simply responding to changes as they come. Change management professionals use elements from a wide range of fields, including psychology and engineering, to provide tools for bringing about intentional changes and coping with outside changes. As evolving technology and an increasingly global economy produce more and faster changes in the workplace, change management has become a growing field of study, and numerous change management companies offer services to help employers and workers through these ongoing transitions.
Innovation managers work to come up with profitable new ideas and then direct the development of those ideas within the company. They also reach beyond the company to predict and guide the effects of new ideas and products on suppliers, sellers, and customers. Businesses generally use innovation management to ensure that they keep growing through the introduction of new ideas. Successful innovation almost always results in change.
Innovation may start with a brainstorming session to create a new product or a new way to solve a problem. The most important factor in this early process is “vision,” or the ability to imagine something new and different. Good innovation management includes creating a supportive and open atmosphere in which workers are encouraged to create and share new ideas. Vision must be supported by research to confirm that the suggested idea is original and that it can be carried out by the company. Innovation managers must have a thorough knowledge of their business in order to know that their recommendations are possible within the existing company structure. When a successful innovation is introduced, good innovation managers will reward those who created the idea and help them put it into practice.
Changes in job status and workload can be very disruptive. If your job is redefined, you may be required to move from a comfortable, familiar routine into unknown territory without any choice in the matter. Effective change management strategies can make your transition much less traumatic by helping your employers anticipate your feelings of displacement so that they can work proactively to engage your support. Through the change management process, you and other employees can become part of a team coping with change together rather than individuals having unwelcome changes forced upon you. Even if it is only your job that is being restructured, a good change management process will define your changing role in terms of its effect on the entire company.
One of the most important elements of change management is communication. If a company is restructuring, management should begin explaining the upcoming changes as early as possible in order to reduce employees’ shock and resistance and get their support. A good change management plan should draw all employees into the process from the beginning. Early communication about change should include basic information about the reasons for the change and its goals and also allow room for employees to voice their reactions and offer suggestions. If such discussions are held privately rather than openly, resistance may begin to build. However, if employee concerns are discussed honestly, it is much more likely that problems can be resolved.
Once again, communication is vital in smoothing a difficult transition. Change managers should ensure that company executives understand the reasons for the change and which employees will be affected by it. If your company is planning a big change of this nature, this should be communicated to you and other employees in detail as early as possible. Managers should emphasize the positive aspects of the change so that you and other workers can understand how the new technology will improve the company's business and each person's job in particular. Your company should also make sure that you receive adequate training on new systems before they are installed to ensure that you can learn the new skills you will need without creating a major disruption in your workday. In addition, technical support should be expanded during and immediately after the transition period in anticipation of increased problems that may occur as employees learn the new system. Immediate and sympathetic support can make it easier for you and your coworkers to adapt to the new system.
Many companies wish to promote creative thinking among their employees, but the competitive atmosphere of the workplace may lead to the loss of credit for an individual's ideas, either by intentional theft or by honest confusion during an active brainstorming session. Innovation management techniques work to encourage invention while minimizing the negative aspects of competition. One technique is for companies to create an open and transparent framework for keeping track of the development of ideas. This may be as simple as a diagram on a white board or a computer program designed for the purpose of tracking ideas.
Introducing ideas of change management into a business that does not yet actively work to manage change is an excellent example of workplace innovation. If you have seen examples of the negative impact of unmonitored change at your workplace, you can make a constructive contribution by suggesting that your employer adopt conscious change management practices. Before speaking to a supervisor, you may want to gather sources that describe the elements of change management and the benefits it can bring to businesses in transition. You may also want to document specific cases of unmanaged change at your job and suggest ways that a proactive approach might have prevented problems.
Even if your company does not adopt an overall change management plan, you can improve the way change occurs at your workplace by employing change management techniques yourself. Improving your communication skills will make it easier for you to speak up in meetings, where you can discuss the details of upcoming changes, voice your concerns, and ask questions. You can also try to plan ahead in order to anticipate problems and brainstorm solutions. Try to figure out which other employees will be affected by the change, and, if possible, meet with them to broaden your understanding of the change's effects. You may hear or express fears and objections, but be aware that your focus should be positive. Your employer may appreciate suggestions for constructive ways to make the change easier for you and your coworkers.
Moving to something new means leaving the old behind, and good change management can help you plan ahead so that you can leave your old job in as constructive a way as possible. You can use your knowledge of your workplace to decide the best schedule for informing your employer of your decision to leave. In many cases, employers will appreciate as much advance notice as possible and may be especially grateful if you are willing to help with the transition by training your replacement. However, some employers may retaliate against workers who give notice by dismissing them immediately. While you may want to leave your job on a positive note, your first goal should be to protect your interests.
As you begin your new job, understand that the process of change is not over. You can continue to practice change management skills by monitoring the effects of the change on your work and your general well-being. Note any problems you experience and try to brainstorm solutions to them. You should also try to be aware of any other employees affected by your arrival and communicate with them about their needs and concerns.