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The Year of Change

This time of year we see a lot of top 10 lists for this or that topic as a way of wrapping up the previous 12 months. One list I ran across – the top 10 buzzwords for the year – found the word “change” as the number one for 2008.

This is all very exciting stuff for me, as my lifelong career focus has been on managing organizational changes. Of course, the authors of this list were not thinking about organizational change management, they were thinking about political change, economic change and hopefully a change in the attitude of the rest of the planet toward our nation.

On the other hand, it is all the same thing. Organizations are social systems, just on a smaller scale than countries. I suspect that all of the same forces that are creating change here in the states (and in many countries across the planet) are also creating change within a majority of companies across the globe. You have a choice about these change – be a victim and accept what ever the change hands you, or take a stance and prepare to manage and guide events in a constructive fashion.

When it comes to managing and planning organizational changes, I use a fairly simple methodology to assist my clients to deal with changes effectively – utilizing the following four basic stages:

Plan – define the target end state and identify the actions to mitigate resistance
Communicate – provide a strong sense of direction and regular updates on progress
Enable – ensure that the necessary resources are available to complete the change
Reinforce – utilize mechanisms to reaffirm incremental changes and reward successful accomplishment

Bough Tricolore

While this approach may appear simplistic I am constantly surprised at how seldom these stages are followed correctly when organizations attempt changes without the requisite attention to change management. It is not rocket science, but it does require effort.

I am not one for prognostication, but I suspect 2009 will be a year where we begin to see the ramifications of change that were initiated in 2008. Certainly some are going to be tough to get through, but I also look forward to some positive changes as well. If you are looking for a New Years Resolution, I have one to offer. Be proactive with change management this year – your business will benefit from this resolution should you have the gumption to see it through.

Wishing everyone a prosperous and peaceful 2009!

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