By Laura DeWitt
Our agency recently underwent a change involving our internal trafficking processes. My, oh my, how people resist change (myself included)! Below are a few things I noticed throughout the process that may be helpful as you face any sort of major change, in the workplace or elsewhere.
Do your best to eliminate the fear of the unknown, but understand you may have to dive in blindly at some point.
Part of the reason many of us resist change is because we simply cannot comprehend what the given change will entail. Although you can work hard to combat the fear of the unknown by doing your due diligence, sometimes, when it comes down to it, you just have to go all in. Throughout our internal change process, my own fears stemmed from possessing a strong desire to ask the right questions so we could approach the change feeling prepared, but constantly feeling like I didn’t even know what the right questions were! For someone who likes to be in control, this was pretty tough. While we put off actually flipping the switch for several months, once we did, relief ensued. There were certainly an abundance of follow-up questions that came up as we proceeded to implement and begin using the new system, but what’s important to note is that many of these could not have been anticipated via research; it required diving in and actively using the system. It took being seriously stumped to realize all the things I didn’t know I didn’t know!
Enlist multiple internal advocates for the change at hand.
Having more than one person leading the change process can prove to be beneficial. When we first began the change process, I was assigned to take the lead in terms of research and eventually implementation. This can be entirely overwhelming for one person to take on. Once we brought someone else into the mix and I felt as though I had a support system, everything seemed to go much more smoothly. I had someone to bounce ideas off of and in this way, we came up with a solid set of best practices for implementation. It also helped to have someone else to tag team the implementation process with, encourage positive attitudes when other team members were frustrated, interpret and respond to team member questions, etc.
The concept of delegating sort of ties in with the paragraph above. Once you have multiple people on board, it’s important to actually let them be involved with and responsible for certain items of business. When it comes to implementing big changes, one person simply cannot know it and do it all. While everyone involved needs to be on the same page, it is helpful to have individuals or small groups take over certain areas and subsequently serve as subject matter experts in those areas. This takes a great deal of pressure off a single implementation leader.
Embrace the change, but remind people that the change is a process.
When implementing new software (or making any large, complicated and wide-reaching change) it seems unrealistic to expect all people to make several sudden and drastic changes all at once. It seems to me that people feel much more at ease when told the change will be a gradual one, with different processes and components introduced at different steps along the way. This approach allows people to be introduced to (and hopefully master) various functionality in stages. As I see it, they are more apt to both make the change and even enjoy it, as they are not bombarded by an abundance of change all at once.
While the few items mentioned above are not the only things to consider when facing a change, these are a few areas that stand out in my mind as a result of our recent agency-wide change. Change can be overwhelming, but also extremely positive. When a major change is approached from a well-informed and positive perspective, our agency experience serves as proof that the transition can be a largely positive one.