Corporate Leadership in Recession through Change Management
Today, business success increasingly depends on your ability to get people to follow you, not because they have to, but because they want to.
We are going through as tough an economic period as many people can remember. The events of these times in corporate organizations such as mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, downsizing, and privatizations ultimately lead to organizational change.
Organizational change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory and power. This creates excess uncertainty and if change feels extremely uncertain, people will reject it.
Resistance to change can be attributed to unclear vision, lack of communication, no satisfactory reward system, confusion and frustration, force, fear of unknown, fear of insecurity, loss of competency and lack of support.
Leading an organization during the best of times presents challenges for managers, but surviving under recession presents extraordinary hurdles. “Your people are always your most important strategic resource, and during difficult times their value increases,” says Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain.
Although recession is a tough time for all, according to Jain, recessions give companies a valuable commodity: more time for corporate leaders to review the organization’s strategic focus. Recession is a chance to get back to basics and understand your mission, your competencies and your threats. Stressful circumstances become an opportunity to try new strategies.
Even in the worst recession, there are organizations that succeed. They may be superb at what they do or they saw the storm coming and got some key decisions right in advance. Managing change is necessary across all industries, yet many leaders are ill prepared to act upon requirements for change to avoid business disruption. For many organizations, preparedness begins at the top and this means that leadership – across all levels – must have total clarity of purpose and focus; there also must be alignment in strategic philosophy and resolution goals.
According to Management Consultant, William Bridges there is a simple, time-tested model to help staff through significant change. These three elements are:
1. Ending Phase
Get the numbers right the first time. It never works to reduce staff constantly. The key point is that this is a major organizational change, so there can only be one ending phase. Plan your change strategy for both the affected (laid-off staff) and the unaffected staff. Plan carefully and execute promptly. The organizational foundations are severely being tested and only through a managed process will a new beginning emerge
2. Transitional Phase
Treat all employees with dignity throughout the whole process. Provide fmultiple avenues of support to all staff members, including top executives who may be greatly stressed by all the decisions surrounding organizational change.
3. Beginning Phase
This involves communicating the vision, enacting behaviors of the new organization, and recasting the future in a confident and positive manner.
Here are some effective tips for leaders on successfully working through the beginning phase of organizational change:
• Engage and Involve:
People are more likely to comply eagerly if they feel a sense of ownership, rather than feeling that things are imposed on them. While the norm indicates that change IS imposed on the employees, it would be a good idea to engage employees in the process, be open and provide them with as much information and rationale as possible. This secures loyalty rather than risk a sense of resentment.
As a leader, to keep your employees engaged, motivated and focused in a change-saturated environment, it is imperative that you make yourself more available. This is of great advantage to you, because you would be able to observe directly how things are managed under the organizational changes so that you can react quickly and effectively. This is also good for your employees, because they will have questions, and they will need clarity.
• Clarify Roles and Rules:
Regardless of the size of your organization, a lack of clarity always leads to conflict. Based on practice rather than theory, when it comes to employees’ scope of work and to company policies, “detail, detail, and detail” is of high importance. Detail aids clarity. In situations where things are defined in a vague or partially vague manner, messages are open not only to interpretation but also to negotiation and power struggles. When employees are unsure of what is expected of them, how can they be expected to perform in the best possible way? They can’t, and that is why detail and clarity are so important.
• Be Clear to Battle Fear
In departing from the past and moving toward newer regulations, many will worry about loss of respect, face, and status. Many will also worry that more will be required of them once the new changes are in place, and they are not sure how to meet those requirements. The threat of change and the anxiety it causes are understandable. While change is promising to some, and perhaps vital to the organization, it is dangerous to others. Because of that, change requires proactive conflict-management practices. Leaders need to create a language of effective conflict management throughout the organization during times of change or turmoil, in order to proactively address all forms of conflict to increase engagement, and to create a company culture of true teamwork.
• Promote a Company Culture of Adaptability- and Demonstrate It Yourself
To do well as a leader within your organization, it is necessary to build an adaptable team. You need to create a corporate culture that recognizes the opportunity in every challenge. As you accompany and support your employees through organizational change, remember that change related challenges are opportunities for growth, and highlight that in every conversation, meeting and communication. And furthermore, don’t forget to believe in it yourself.
During these difficult economic times, most people are happy to have a place to go to work each day. A synchronized program that blends efficient workplace strategy with a top-down communication plan that explains the rationale for organizational change stands the greatest chance of making the transition successful.