Change Management: Avoid Havoc In Very Uncertain Times

Escalating gas prices...tensions and turmoil in the Middle East...a struggling world economy. Leadership, in times of uncertainty, is not that much different from that of 'normal' times. What does differ is the degree to which basic tactics of change management are applied. In times of uncertainty, leaders must pay even more attention to the people issues in change. Here are five ways to avoid leadership havoc.

Get off of autopilot.

Examine your organization's strategy. With your leadership team confirm or revise your current strategy or mission. Should it change as a result of what is going on in the environment? Should it change as a result of what is going on with customers or competitors? Should you continue going in the same direction - swerve to the right or left - or take a totally new path? Don't overreact but don't sit still waiting for 'it' to pass.

Manage and multiple the impact.

During uncertain times, employees are inundated with stories of downsizing, pay reductions, etc. There's no one perfect way to communicate change. Some organizations make an enormous mistake in using only 'low touch' methods such as newsletters or the company intranet site. But 'high touch' - face-to-face encounters- is vital. One manager puts it this way: "It's important to get eyeball to eyeball - to see and react to your people." Effective communication is inclusive, candid, and decidedly two-way.

Identify your key players and re-recruit them.

Who are the most important people in your organization or team? Be aware they can be at all levels, not just the top. Meet with this them on a regular basis to monitor what is going on. Seek their input, clarify specific performance goals, give them the resources they need, let them go, and reward them in whatever way you can for results. Don't lose them or their commitment.

Get out of your ivory tower - pay attention to frontline action.

Related to the earlier point about refining existing strategies, it becomes critical to ensure that these strategies are turned into frontline action plans. Changing goals and performance outcomes must be translated so that people understand them, buy into them, and are motivated by them. This is the time to power up your people engine.

Build and maintain stretch alliances.

During uncertain times it is more important than ever to maintain strong relations with the senior leadership and with other key managers. It 's also a good time to strengthen external relationships with others such as suppliers, vendors, selected customer groups, and perhaps even other organizations in a similar "business" as you.

Change creates uncertainty for employees, customers, and suppliers. If you follow these five change management techniques you will more likely maintain productivity, retain key employees and stay sane in a world that doesn't stop changing.