As the working day becomes more flexible, with people working remotely, often with no fixed desk to operate from. Xceed Group operates a hot desk policy, as consultants often work on customer sites, with short stints in the office. Despite this policy, I always opt to sit in the same chair when I am in the office.

On the rare occasion I find someone else sitting in ‘my’ chair, I feel upset. In fact, I like sitting in that chair so much that strive to get into the office early just to make sure I can secure before anyone else does. As ridiculous as that may sound, I can assure you that to some extent everyone does it including you! When was the last time you chose a different route to work? Where do you like sitting most at home? Which carriage do you tend to choose on the train? The simple fact is we are all creatures of habit because we all like stability and familiarity.

Unfortunately, the only one constant we can be certain of in life is that everything will change. As much as we cling on to our habits and try to preserve our rituals, sooner or later something will happen to render them either a hindrance or pointless.

When the need for change comes from within, change is rarely seen as a problem. However, when we are forced by a situation or person to do something that does not conform to our modus operandi, it becomes a problem almost immediately. Never is this more of an issue than when trying to execute a Big Change project on a large body of people.

Change equals uncertainty, and people dislike uncertainty

One of the most important elements of Big Change is often overlooked. A key reason for failure in big change projects is the change agent’s inability to recognise the importance of the attitudes and behaviours of the staff. When people are happy, they are more likely to be engaged. When Engaged employees are emotionally invested, they want to contribute more to their organisation. If you have engaged employees executing your projects, your chances of success will increase dramatically. Conversely, people who are actively disengaged may try to sabotage the efforts of the organisation, and quite often their disinterest can spread to other employees. If a small change such as sitting in a different chair can cause people discomfort, imagine the dismay and anger caused by management announcing a big change project is about to start!

Change is necessary. Businesses must react to evolving market conditions, evolve and adapt in order to remain relevant and competitive. One of the best tools in their arsenal to effect this is change projects. However, if not managed correctly, change projects become a double edged sword and can inadvertently harm their hosts. Management financially invest in change to bring about specific goals, for example the introduction of a new ERP system or help desk team, in order to allow the company to run more efficiently. When management are financially invested, they want to see Return on Investment. They want to see something tangible to show where the money has gone. Too often, this leads to failure because not enough time and attention is spent making sure the employees are on board.

So as consultants, responsible for managing the process of Big Change, how do we mitigate these risks?

Firstly, it is imperative that the attitudes and behaviours of the employees must be managed, and coached effectively. We must look at the culture of the teams who will experience the change most and assess whether or not they; have pride in their work as individuals, work well together as a team, respect one another’s idiosyncrasies, and pitch in for each other. Wherever problems are found on both a team based and individual level, mentoring and coaching should be targeted to address those problems. Difficult behaviour should be openly challenged in a constructive but considerate manner, while beneficial behaviour should be championed. Projects that fail to recognise the importance employee engagement will encounter challenges and resistance to change.

Secondly, large projects that span a long time frame should be broken up and delivered in small iterative chunks. When our working practices change in small incremental phases, we find it easier to adapt and each change is not so daunting. When a huge change is landed on our desks, the opposite can happen and cognitive dissonance will ensue.

Lastly, language and communication is incredibly important. The phrase “Big Change” is loaded with negative connotations for many employees. Describing our projects as such can create immediate opposition, so we must choose our words in order to allay resistance. Focusing on the outcome that will occur by implementing big change rather than the process of getting there can encourage employees to embrace Big Change.

Contact us today or more information about how Xceed Group can help manage your Big Change project.