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01/11/2018

The Need for Change Management

“Create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place, and then translate that vision into a reality.”

—Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader

By Natalie I. Lancaster

We live in an era of constant change. Nothing stays the same. Change comes in many forms. It could be a change in legislative or regulatory compliance (CFPB), or a change in your business process or policies (ALTA’s Best Practices), and it will most likely include a change in technology. The success of any business transition depends on leaders being able to influence others, such as your staff. They do this by sharing a clear vision, building enthusiasm for the adoption of the change, making them keenly aware of how their role will be impacted, arming them with the knowledge, ability and skills needed to perform effectively, and managing any resistance that arises. It’s a big job that includes strategic planning, careful analysis, clear communications, effective training, and coaching to reinforce the new processes.

When planning a change in business process, policies or technologies, most managers do not take into consideration how the transition will impact their staff. They focus on strategic and tactical planning, but not on the people side of change and how their behaviors may be affected. Change is an individual thing after all, so it takes some creative planning and powerful enthusiasm to engage your staff. Change management offers purposeful activities to help ensure the success of your business transition. Our industry needs to embrace change management and incorporate its principles into our business plans for successful adoption.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the science that studies how individuals transition through events and what’s needed to change their behavior. It’s the art of working on the “people side of change.” Change management is a new buzz in our industry, but it has been around for a while. Many of you shared “Who Moved my Cheese” (Spencer Johnson) with your staff or may recall the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (5 Stages of Grief - the Change Curve), William Bridges (Managing Transitions), John Kotter (Leading Change) and so many more. I have studied Prosci’s model of change management and find it to be very useful.

Management chart

For change management to be successful, it must adhere to principles that work. Prosci offers a methodology called ADKAR which identifies what people need for sustainable change. ADKAR is an acronym for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. Jeff Hiatt—the founder of Prosci and a former engineer and program manager for Bell Labs—once noticed that two similar projects could both have excellent technical solutions and project management, yet one would successfully meet its objectives while the other would fail. Hiatt found that people were the key to this success.

“Research on thousands of initiatives shows a direct correlation between how well the people side of change is managed (change management) and how successful the effort is,” Hiatt said. “Projects with improved change management had increased likelihood of meeting objectives, finishing on time and finishing on budget.”

When planning a significant change in our business, we must work closely with our staff to confirm that they have:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate in and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

Prosci uses a three-part process to help organizations transition through change. Successful change management begins with planning. Change managers work with the project team before, during and after the transition. They help identify what staff needs will be to transition effectively.

The first phase is preparing for the change. Preparations include being able to accurately define what is changing and why. Leaders must be able to paint a vision and have a clear explanation for the change to share with their staff. The management team must also be prepared for their role and involvement, understanding the real impact of the change for their offices and staff. Key sponsors are chosen to spread the word. Consistent messaging must be provided at the appropriate time to support the project plan.

The second phase of change management involves managing the change. Working closely with the project team, change management plans must be developed and carried out. It’s important to monitor the implementation and deployment process and to make course corrections as needed. Business processes should be integrated into training plans and testing done to confirm the details are accurate, organized and clear.

Finally, the last phase of change management is reinforcing the change and ensuring that everything is working as planned. It is helpful to collect feedback from our staff and truly understand their questions and concerns. Do they need more training? Was everything communicated clearly? How are things going? Feedback helps us be aware if there are any issues that need to be addressed. It also serves to help manage any resistance.

Whenever people are involved, there will always be some resistance to change. Anticipating what the issues may be and planning for resistance in advance, we can work together and coach through the transition. Most resistance comes from either a lack of communication, misunderstanding or insufficient training. If employees are well informed, with detailed communications and on-point training, resistance will be minimal. Working as a team, with the help of good change management activities in place, the project goes much smoother and our business grows stronger. When the project is complete, celebrate success!

Why We Need Change Management now?

We work in an industry where change is now the new norm. Our ethics and compliance are tested daily. The challenge to move in the constant direction of process improvement, with higher standards for business practices, emphasizes the great need for successful change management in our industry.

Making sure that change management is part of our project plan helps transitions go smoothly. Thinking ahead about what communications will be needed during and after the transition is key. Careful planning, with active and encouraging leadership, helps get employees excited to move forward with the new change. If they are armed with knowledge of what is planned, what is expected of them and how it will affect their role in the organization, they will move forward with enthusiasm and appreciation of the time we take to help them transition. Gaining ability, through efficient, interactive training gives your staff the ability to be successful.

Employees need to understand the changes taking place at their level, based on their role, to be successful and productive. All too often, leaders make decisions and jump into action to deploy changes without taking the time to truly plan what is needed for their staff. Think of change management as a success enabler. Business transitions go much smoother and our business grows stronger when we integrate change management practices.

Conclusion

People are what make businesses successful. For an organization to manage change effectively, we must work with the people affected by the change. Without their buy-in, we will not be successful. Change management helps employees move though business transitions successfully. It is my personal goal to see change management become embraced as part of the real estate industry.

Natalie I. Lancaster is founder of Lancaster Leadership, which provides change management solutions, coaching and training to the title and settlement services industry. She can be reached at coaching@lancasterleadership.net.

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