We live in a world of continuous change. Successful people and businesses share a common characteristic: their ability to adapt to a changing environment. Unfortunately that is easier said than done. Why is change so difficult? Change can bring disruption, anxiety, and a decrease in productivity. How can you lead your employees through the ambiguity to adapting new ways of working?
A clear vision of where you are going and a strategy for how you and your business will get there is the starting point. Next, think of change as a process as opposed to an event. Your role as a leader is to provide the appropriate support during each phase so that people progress. Consider the four "As" to guide you through your progression - awareness, acceptance, adoption and adaptation.
Awareness: Create a shared understanding of the need for change and how the change will affect employees. Don't underestimate how much context employees need to understand why the change is important. Describe the change and why it must happen clearly and succinctly. Communicate it over and over again in both written and face to face communications.
Acceptance: Just because employees have a conceptual understanding of the change, doesn't mean they are with you yet! It is natural for people to try to preserve the way things are. Expect resistance. Acknowledge it as a phase that people need to work through and recognize the loss they are feeling. One way to move through resistance to acceptance is by giving people the opportunity to air their views and talking with employees 1-1.
Adoption: Now success depends on how clearly you communicate what you want employees to do differently and the quality of the training provided to support the change. Your team is learning a new dance; they must learn the new steps and how to coordinate differently with others. Conveying what you don't want employees to do can also be very powerful at this point.
Adaption: (This phase will emerge over time if the other phases are successful.) Those involved with the change make a permanent adjustment to the new environment. The change is so integrated into the way work gets done, people can't imagine doing it any other way. Think about your own banking habits...can you imagine banking without ATMs?