Managing change or change management is something that affects us all at some point, but a lot of businesses tend to focus on the change element and not so much on the management of the change. 
 
Firstly, it’s worth noting that change isn't a natural thing for most people. As human beings we’re creatures of habit therefore we like the status quo, we like to be able to come home and know where things are going to be, is the peanut butter in the same cupboard are my slippers by the back door (this probably says more about my life than yours!). If every time we came home things were in a different place, we would find that pretty difficult to deal with, maybe even stressful? With our habits being deep rooted in our beliefs that have potentially been built up over many years we have to understand that to change a habit takes time. 
So, how can we prepare people for change? 
In my experience the most effective way is to initially create dissatisfaction with the current situation in other words we need to identify what is making people unhappy with the current situation, this can sometimes take a little time to think through.  
 
I’ve personally found it useful (where applicable) to use the example of someone’s working hours where they are so long that they don’t get to see their children go to bed of an evening, or it may be that they are continuously answering emails long into the evening, which is impacting on their personal life. Whatever the reason, the more it can link to the impact on the individual the stronger the desire to change will be. 
Once we've established what people are dissatisfied with, we then need to paint a picture of what good looks like, this can also be called ‘utopia’. This can often be slightly easier than identifying the dissatisfaction, but ideally relates to what they are dissatisfied with, so to use the previous example the individual might get to see their children to bed or to spend quality time with their partner instead of answering emails. 
After painting the picture of what good looks like we now have the raw ingredients needed for someone to want to change, in essence by highlighting the dissatisfaction we've created a pressure that is likely to push people away from where they currently are while the vision of what good looks like creates a vacuum where people are more likely to want to get too. 
It’s also critical to consider what the cost of the change is, not just in financial terms to the business but also in terms of personal cost (time, effort and emotion) to the individuals involved, this can help you to manage the individual through the change. 
 
You might think at this point that this is enough to drive change, in my opinion you would be wrong. The next critical element is to ensure that there are clear next steps that show people how they will get from where they are to where they now want to be. Only now is the stage set for the change to effectively begin. 
It’s important for success that there are regular communications with the people that are involved with the change, remember we are trying to change a habit, so people need reassuring and reminding of the reasons we have set out on the journey. This doesn’t have to be a long-winded meeting, it can just form part of the everyday conversation that takes place between management and staff. The critical point is that it continues to take place until the new habit is formed. 
 
In summary, plan the change, understand the costs of the change, invest time in managing the change and above all remember, people are creatures of habit and it takes time to change a habit! 
Dave Bownes 
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