7 Steps to Facilitating Change


There continues to be fundamental and seismic changes in today’s organisations in all sectors. The change factors in today’s world are at times bewildering in their pace and momentum; external changes include economic crises, globalisation leading to increased competition, changing legislation, and ever changing technology. Within organisations the impact shows itself through downsizing and restructuring, change of business direction, power changes of influence within the organisation, and quite often a sustained lack of clarity for operational people in what their job actually is.
My own experience in the last few months has been observing and supporting many teams and individuals in the public sector on how to face and deal with the changes. People’s reactions to change often include anxiety, bewilderment, confusion, and anger. We as a small company have also had our fair share of dealing with the changes primarily involved in external support to the public sector.
How to cope with the level of change in today’s world? Easier said than done of course, but a combination of a good self-awareness, the competency to self care through the change, and an ability to inspire their people and initiate and manage change all helps deal with managing to “stay afloat” and cope, and manage……..

Here are a few ideas and models on supporting that ability for people to cope themselves and enable their teams to cope….

1. Reflect on what you can really influence

One of the most difficult elements in any change process is the feeling of powerlessness, and lack of control that many people face, especially when the change has been imposed from outside the organisation, and there has been little choice about the change.

There is something about understanding the principles of “locus of control” that is important to reflect and accept. A twist on the classic model of locus of control is the Doughnut Model which helps you identify:

  • What is yours and the teams core responsibility
  • What is outside yours and the teams core responsibility, but where you can show some judgement and creativity to influence, perhaps wider beyond the immediate team with other Managers and teams, and other agencies
  • To recognise what is not your responsibility and what you are not able to directly influence. Separating this out, helps to be able to “let go” and accept there is nothing you can do to influence elements of the bigger picture of what is happening

 2. Understand some of the key organisational change theories

Because of the level of change over the last few years, there is a lot written about the process of change in organisations, and the psychological effects on people. Remember that ultimately in most organisations in times of change (and most other times too) that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and the unwritten values, beliefs and norms win out over formal processes.

There are predictable dynamics of change in organisations that include:

  • Communications deteriorate – people lose touch with each other
  • Productivity often suffers – the organisation and/or parts of the organisation lose momentum
  • A loss of team cohesion – and teams lose sight of competition with other organisations
  • Power struggles happen – and people lose sight of customers
  • Morale goes down – commitment often follows
  • ‘Bail-outs’ occur – often good people head to new pastures

John Kotter’s highly regarded books ‘Leading Change’ (1995) describes a helpful model for understanding and managing change. Each stage acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people’s response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change: Kotter’s eight step change model goes along the lines of:

  1. Increase urgency – inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  2. Build the guiding team – get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  3. Get the vision right – get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  4. Communicate for buy-in – Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.
  5. Empower action – Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognise progress and achievements.
  6. Create short-term wins – Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  7. Don’t let up – Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
  8. Make change stick – Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

There are a number of useful models that it helps Managers to be aware of and understand, including the Kubler Ross model of human response to change, and Lewin’s force field analysis, and BusinessBalls.com has a very good overview of change theory.

 3. Understand the human psychology of change

We know that most people struggle with change, and it takes a considerable time to adjust and integrate to a change imposed on them.

  • No matter how exciting the change is, expect a ‘sense of loss’  about what’s gone
  • No matter how competent people are, expect a sense of confusion and ambiguity around the change, and very probably a period of time with a deterioration of trust
  • Expect a ‘sense of self-preservation’ where people look after themselves from a basic survival perspective

Some people will also try and resist change actively through:

  • Deliberate opposition
  • Reduction in output
  • Severe quarrels
  • Sullen hostility
  • “Why this won’t work”
  • Agitating others
  • Problem denial

Others will take a more passive approach, but possibly more undermining of:

  • Withholding information
  • Foot dragging
  • No confrontation but no productivity
  • “We have always done it this way” attitudes

4. Project plan the change as it applies to you, and identify short term steps and people’s roles

So far, a fair bit of reality and negativity about managing change…. but there are some basic things that Managers can do to help manage change. Check that people affected by the change agree with, or at least understand, the need for change, and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed, and to be involved in the planning and implementation of the change. Use face-to-face communications to handle sensitive aspects of organisational change management.Consider creating a “Change Road map” for your Team, such as this Change Management Roadmap example. Its really worth considering creating an outline Change plan for your team. This change plan example is a template to get you started thinking about the areas you need to cover.

Focus on short-range objectives – since organisational change often means that you will have a loss of resources within your work-group and you may lose some of your people, yet have as much or more work to do than before.  Maximise effectiveness by operating with clearly defined goals and objectives and focus intensely on short-term targets, which will enable “bite-size” senses of achievement for your people enhanced by generous feedback regarding progress that is being made towards goal achievement.

Clarify Work Roles – you cannot assume that all employees know exactly where and how to aim their effort.  Even if they don’t ask, even if they seem to be moving confidently in the same direction as you, it’s important to check.  Meet with each of your employees to re-define job responsibilities, be very specific especially on such issues as decision-making authority, personal accountability and reporting requirements.  Make sure the whole team have a precise understanding of their expected performance standards and help each of them identify what the “critical few” make or break aspects of their job really are.

5. Look at where you can work with peers and influence higher up the organisation to manage the change

There may be opportunities to work with other Managers and teams, to influence the change itself, or at least how the change process is managed. Change research tends to show that people who have at least tried to get involved in working through the changes with peers and upwards through influencing their Manager with ideas and the effect it is having on their teams, fare better than people who leave it alone and accept they are a passive vessel that is being “done unto”.

It may be ultimately that senior Managers aren’t listening, or feel disempowered themselves, but psychologically it is usually better to have “tried and failed” to influence upwards that not to have tried at all. From a peer perspective with other Managers, there are also opportunities for create a critical mass of influence to handle the change, and indeed to offer support to each other in groups.

Positive change support mechanisms I have been involved with have been Action Learning set programmes run for Managers affected by change, co Coaching support between Managers where two Managers meet perhaps monthly to talk through coping and coach each other on approaches to teams etc.

6. Understand your own character, and those of your team, and communicate often

It’s important to understand yourself, and how you personally react to change. We know that it’s unlikely the majority of us will embrace regular change, but what happens to us as individuals going through change, and how much of this is affected by the sort of people we are?

Where are you on spectrums of being flexible or non flexible? Risk tolerance, and management of stress? It might be worth completing a  self assessment exercise to look at these areas, and think through your own comfort zones, and how you may be able to cope better. If you are feeling the strains of change, then undoubtedly your team will be too. How much do you know about what’s going on for them?

Bear in mind:

  • Don’t rush people out of emotionalism
  • Expect some setbacks
  • Allow for differences in recovery timeframes
  • Reinforce hopefulness
  • Continue team building efforts
  • Attend to psychological needs selectively
  • Continue to manage closely
  • Guard again relapses
  • Encourage risk-taking
  • Focus on feedback, not success or failure
Don’t lose touch with your people, which can be easy to in times of flux.  Normal communication channels probably won’t be working so well so you will need to counter the highly efficient rumour mill especially since they will be hungrier than ever for answers and information.  Good communication is a two way street – provide your people with a variety of opportunities to input to you and be a careful listener – take more time with people and be available, ask more questions, get people’s opinions and reactions to the changes.  Maintain more visibility by circulating – “doing a walkabout” and make it clear that you are accessible. Also ensure you get the information to them that they need – even just keeping them posted that you don’t have any new information for them is valuable to them.  Strive to be specific rather than vague, clear up rumours and misinformation.

7. Practice personal resilience through change and work with others to encourage the skills

This is dealt with in a separate article, but suffice to say that it’s critical to review your coping mechanisms, and “refresh and revitalise” them as you go through change.
The tendency for lots people is to try and run harder on the hamster wheel to cope with change, and risk burn out, rather than stopping and working out how they can best handle change and take time out to look after themselves, which they need to do more at this time, not less.


Self assess your own resilience self assessment resilience exercise, and start to put in place coping mechanisms.