Dealing with Change

By Constance B. Wolf

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world" Gandhi

Over the last 20 years , a lot of research has been done on the process of organizational change. Most change agents now agree that the following conditions must be in place for sustained change to occur:

1. A clear and compelling NEED for the change - What is the 'burning platform' off which you must move if you are not to go up in smoke? An example might be a decline in sales that is forcing a reduction of budget. Or, perhaps, the difficulty in hiring good staff is increasing and there are not enough resources to carry out the programs.

2. A VISION of what the future will be like after the change - 'You can't get there if you don't know where you are going'. The ideal change effort is achieved when people are invited in early enough to help create the new vision. Participation in the design or problem solving yields better understanding and commitment.

3. Clear ACTION PLANS must be developed - It is vital to write down precise action plans whether done by yourself or that are proposed by a planning committee and agreed upon by a steering committee. Plans should include milestones designating timing for completed stages of the implementation plan, a monitoring process to assess progress and feedback to make interim corrections along the way.

4. Clear ROLES and RESPONSIBILITIES for STAKEHOLDERS - Stakeholders of all types are needed to support implementation of the change, including leadership, managers, staff or employees, consultants , coaches, and customers. Specific assignments linked to the implementation plan, including communications, will help make the change plan work.

5. Open COMMUNICATIONS - Communicating throughout the change effort is one of the most vital aspects of the process. Scheduling periodic communications with those impacted by the change gives people reassurance that the change is being well managed even when all the answers to questions aren't known. Contact with the various stakeholders also allows for resistance to surface and be dealt with appropriately. Quite often, resistance provides us with important feedback about what might have been neglected in our enthusiasm for creating new ways of doing things. It is often important to maintain aspects about the past that are sacred and motivational to our stakeholders as long as they don't sub-optimize our needed change.

6. CELEBRATIONS - Celebrations help put a spotlight on the progress being made and enhance motivation in the face of normal anxieties about change. A final celebration or acknowledgement of the completion of the change effort is always important to reward the effort of all involved and to mark a definite shift to the new way of being.

How Coaching can Assist A professional coach can help support the leader or the board in designing and implementing the change process. A coach will listen to you, mirror back what is heard and help you move through the roadblocks in order to achieve progress.

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Connie Wolf is president of Sounding Board®, a service of CBW, Inc. She holds a master's degree in Organization Development and is a graduate of Coach University and the Gestalt Therapist Training Program. She is the creator of the Sounding Board® approach to professional coaching and consulting and can be reached at  or 480-607-1960.