When Change Hurts
If you take the King’s shilling, as the quote goes, “you do the King’s bidding”. When the King starts to run out of shillings, things start to happen. One of the likely and predictable consequences of having a lesser number of shillings is the possibility that there might need to be a smaller organization in the future to get the King’s bidding done. One of the bigger challenges in the cycle of organizational leader life is dealing with the need to make changes with your most critical component to success – the team.
Sometimes this process may be predictable, such as the arrival of a new piece of tech or the move to a revised process that in either case requires less people. Under those circumstances, the organization may have purposefully moved in that direction as part of the larger plan. Not a surprise.
However, when change arrives that is neither planned for or welcome, what is the game plan? As John Kotter writes in “Leading Change”, the first step in any change is developing a sense of urgency. What are the stakes? Why are we doing this? What are the consequences? What are the opportunities?
There are two groups you will be dealing with here. One is the departing. The other are the survivors. Your human resource people, who have worked with you to ensure that process was fair and transparent, are there for the departing. This post is devoted to the most important part of a downsize – the survivors. It’s hard math, but math it is. How do you carry on with those remaining? Will they trust you? Will they trust the organization? Are they still committed?
Rest assured, you will have some trust issues with who’s left. Meet it head on and ensure that the focus is on the need to do what’s right, accomplish the mission, and serve. The grieving process is going to happen so don’t think that you can stop or avoid it.
This is the time to engage everyone in determining the necessary innovation to keep forward momentum. Most processes don’t get re-examined for efficiency or relevance in fat budget times. This is a time to IMPROVE the organization. It is up to you to set a positive tone.
Your efforts in planning and executing a coherent vision, built around your mission and core values will be rewarded in the aftermath of a loss of staff because you will have already done much of the heavy lifting in focusing your team on the desired outcomes. A robust commitment to strategic planning will be your anchor in determining how to allocate scarce resources.
In short, change usually hurts someone. When it is hurting an entire team, your challenge is to find the opportunity, be transformational, and make the gain worthy of the pain.