It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since emails became ubiquitous or almost 10 years since Facebook first sat open on our desks ready for the next post from friends we haven’t seen since high school. Crazier still is that I used to go to an actual library to conduct research using and used a card catalog, books and magazines…something some of you are too young to have ever experienced.
Over the last few decades, innovation – in technology and processes – has advanced at lightning speed to facilitate both personal and business success. The exponential rate of innovative advancement—the rate at which we are giving ourselves new things and new ways—is not slowing down.
Ironically, our seemingly insatiable passion for innovation sometimes results in changes we then resist. This is especially true with change in our lives that is driven by others—change in how we do our jobs and communicate. For some, change is easy. For others, change requires a frustrating amount of time and effort, or is met with the fear of failure when taking the risk to change something that is working.
Unfortunately, not even those responsible for managing change within their organization appear confident or capable of doing it well. An IBM Institute for Business Value survey of 1,400 professionals in 48 countries revealed that only 40 percent believe they have the right skills in place to successfully manage “change projects” in the future. And a survey by McKinsey & Company showed similar results, with “some 65 percent of the senior executives … only ‘somewhat,’ ‘a little,’ or ‘not at all’ confident about the decisions they make in this area.”
So how do you learn to embrace – and manage – inevitable changes within your organization? Consider the following steps to make transitions easier for yourself and others:
- Prepare Mentally: If upper management directs your entire organization to use a new project management software, storage app or centralized translation service, prepare to join the ranks – or at least be willing to give it a try. You might find it makes your job much easier, which is likely why it was recommended in the first place. Accept that some changes may actually be more difficult for you personally, but better for the company overall.
- Be Patient: When first using something new, it might take longer to complete certain projects because you are learning how it works. You need to be patient as a user. As a manager, you must set realistic timeframes for completion and be understanding of your employees as they learn the new ropes.
- Practice: Once you’ve patiently accepted changes within your organization, try hard to make the new reality as easy – or more so – than how you did things previously. This takes practice that should come after management has provided sufficient – and perhaps ongoing – training. But each time you will learn new ways of applying the technology or process and it will begin to become second nature.
- Be Encouraging: If change comes easy to you, help others make the transition. Share tips you’ve encountered as you’ve used the new technologies or platform, or communicated successfully with new managers or colleagues. Positive-oriented team players are often happier, and may even be rewarded.
- Be Open: If you still have concerns after incorporating new directives, share your feedback with the powers that be in a positive way. As a manager, be open to suggestions and feedback about the changes you’ve been tasked to manage within your organization, and be willing to make tweaks. Just because the change was designed to be better, doesn’t mean that the first attempt at implementation will be perfect. Suggested improvements can turn a good (or well-intentioned-but-difficult) change into a really great one.
Change can be difficult, especially after decades, or even just years, of doing things a certain way. Being willing to accept and embrace change – and helping others do the same – is the key to success, personally and in business. Nothing stays the same, so it’s futile to try to hold on to the past. It’s now always time for change.