Vesa Purho
Research Analyst, Information Design, Nokia

Our work seems to be changing at an ever-increasing speed, to the extent that we could say that we work in constant change. However, change should not happen without good planning and prework, so I thought that we should be reminded of what a good change management process is. Note that this process applies only to revolutionary changes, not to gradual improvements that can be managed just by setting objectives.

1. State the Reasons for Change

You should never make changes for change’s sake. There always must be some reasons why the change is needed. Are the customers complaining about the quality of documentation? Is the management, or are you, unhappy with the efficiency of the documentation department? Or are there new technologies available that you think would increase the usability of documentation and the product? Whatever the reason, state it clearly and, above all, communicate it clearly to all parties who will be affected by the change, both documentation personnel and all interfaces (research and development, marketing, training, and so on).

2. Analyse the Current Situation

Before you know what to change, you have to know where you are now. Conduct interviews, surveys, and measurements to analyse the current situation. Involve the personnel as well as the interfaces who will be directly affected by the change to find out their opinions of the current situation. In the interviews, you may discover solutions for your problem that you have not thought of yourself. The interviews will also help you to decrease the resistance to change that will inevitably occur.

3. Define Clear, Measurable Goals

The goals have to be something you can measure to know when you have achieved them. You should not set goals like “the documentation department will work more efficiently” or “customer satisfaction will increase.” With goals like that, you never know when you should stop making the change. Goals like “customer satisfaction with documentation will increase by one point” or “production costs will decrease by 10% in one year” are much better. Naturally, you have to know the current situation so that you can set reasonable goals (see step 2). Involve the personnel in setting the goals, and when you are faced with the resistance to change, you can even use their participation to your benefit by asking your team to come up with solutions to your problem if they are not happy with your suggestions. Naturally, they first have to know and understand the reason for the change (see step 1). Also, check that your goals are in line with the company’s general goals so that you don’t, for example, set a goal to lower the costs if the company’s goal is to improve quality. Naturally, the goals have to be connected to the groups’ and the individuals’ personal targets.

4. Manage the Change

During the change process, you have to manage the change, people, environment, and yourself. You have to know the current situation, the problem, and the goal of the change. Only then can you answer all the questions related to the change and make the needed decisions. Leadership skills are really needed to manage the change because the change may mean that some people get laid off and others feel threatened, and you must understand that

  • resistance towards change is natural and will always occur
  • different people react differently to change and need to be managed in different ways
  • if you are faced with a lot of resistance, you may have left something unnoticed and you have to go back to step 2

All interfaces have to be kept informed about the change and how it affects them so that they can be sure that everything works well. You must also think about your own management style and commitment to the change. Successfully managing a change one does not believe in is extremely difficult.

5. Analysing the Result

After the change has been made, you have to analyse the situation again. Is the change enough or should you make another change? Sometimes the change process takes so long that the original goal for the change is not enough and another change is required.

Without a good change management process, making changes becomes very difficult because you don’t know where you are to start so you don’t know how much change is required or when you are done. In such situations, people feel insecure and spend time questioning the need for the change and wondering what will happen to them instead of working to make the change happen. In extreme cases, people change jobs in fear of losing the current one. You are in real trouble then because you have fewer people doing the current work and making the change.

The process described above is only an overview of change management. There is literature available on managing change that you should take a look at, at least if you are making a very significant change.

This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia.