We’d all like to find a “magic pill” for helping us deal with workplace change. But handling change is a process, and there’s often no quick or easy way through it. Just today, there was a major update rolled out for some software that everyone in our office uses. Collective groans rose up from every workstation, along with grumbles of “I HATE [insert software’s name here]!” and “Ugh. WHY did they change that??” And this was just a software update–imagine employee response when larger changes are announced, like projects being canceled, downsizing, a new manager being hired, or a brand-new work process being introduced. Rarely are organizational changes met with widespread enthusiasm, even when they turn out to be positive changes.
Change management training can help any organization prepare its employees for a change, and teach them strategies for managing the stressors and emotions that accompany transitions. In the workplace, change is often imposed — it is presented to us as a “done deal.” Managing the change, itself, may not be an option. What can be managed, and managed well, is our internal response to the change — our personal transition.
Change consultant William Bridges developed a three-stage transition model, a progression of experiences termed Endings, the Neutral Zone and Beginnings. Unlike normal processes where we start with the Beginning, during transitions, we begin at Endings and Beginnings is the goal! Viewing transition in terms of the three stages helps us understand that the needs, challenges and opportunities presented by change can be managed as a progression of responses.
The Endings stage is where we sever attachments to the old way of doing things, and it can be a painful and disruptive time for people. Here you should identify what is really ending, try not to overreact, and do what’s necessary to experience emotional acceptance of the “chapter” that is closing. For most people, the Neutral Zone is the most anxious, perplexing, and difficult of all the stages. It’s the period when you’ve let go of the past, but the future isn’t yet clear; you must learn to tolerate ambiguity in your work situation during the Neutral Zone. Finally, the Beginnings stage is where you are open to trying new experiences, and you take action to move forward with the “new way.” This is often the stage where people experience a realization that we are, after all, highly adaptive creatures.
Employing change management training is an effective strategy for helping employees manage these various stages of change. Good training will include effective change management activities which stimulate conversations and help employees practice or role-play the new change strategies and behaviors they’re learning. For example, here’s a change management activity that can be used at the start of a training session to help “break the ice”: Change Icebreaker Exercise: Pulse Check on Change.
CRM Learning offers numerous change management training video programs including these:
Taking Charge of Change features realistic workplace vignettes that illustrate William Bridges’ 3-step model for transitioning through the stages of change and making it work to your advantage.
Ready. Set. CHANGE! equips employees with skills to react smarter, adapt faster and engage together more productively when change comes around again.