Change Management
  1. Creating and Communicating the Change Vision

For a change process to be successful, it is important to create and communicate the vision for the changes. No matter if the reason for the changes lies in the system, the policy, the structure, economic, technological, political or social factors, a clear vision will provide the company with the right direction for the change process. The vision has to motivate the people to work in the right direction chosen by the organization's leader (Kotter 2012, 69). An effective change vision has certain characteristics. First of all, it has to be feasible, which means that it has to have goals which are obtainable and in line with the reality. The vision also has to be flexible: not too specific but more general, able to accept alternative feedback and initiatives. It is important to provide an imaginable vision which will produce a complete picture of the future changes and how they would look like in a specific organization. Additionally, it is crucial for the vision to be focused and clear to provide guidance in the process of making decisions. The desirable vision has to hold the appeal for employees and customers for a long time. Moreover, it has to be communicated well.

In case of complex projects, it is crucial to provide a proper strategy that will explain how the vision is supposed to be delivered. The responsibility rests with the leading change managers and project leaders who have to develop an effective strategy. The communication of the change vision needs considerable support. Therefore, the initial communication of the change vision must come from the company leader. This approach has many advantages, the most crucial one being that a personal initiative from the organization's leader will prove that the changes are very significant (Kotter 2012, 79). After outlining a positive change vision, it is important for the leader to communicate the changes in positive terms on every level of the company to share the vision with everyone. It is crucial to establish a proper communication plan that will ensure effective communication and save resources. It is also important to stay focused and summarize several points such as the things left behind, the things that stay the same and the new things that have never existed before the change.

A clear change vision will provide positive results for the company. In case the vision is not shared, the change efforts will not succeed and can result in confusing projects, directives and tasks that will lead the company in the wrong direction, or the process will not start at all. The main goal of the change vision is to provide a common direction that will show where the initiatives and projects will lead and how they will tie all the processes together. A change vision has to correspond to the company`s mission, its values, culture and positions. Otherwise, the change will lead to the absence of resources, lack of support and resistance in general (Christopher 2008, 380). A vision based solely on financial and analytical factors will have quite a negative result for the change's success. The positive result will be the development of a vision so clear that it can be explained within minutes. Attempts to imagine, realize, and accept future changes will also have positive effect. Generally, an effective change vision has to be presented very quickly to make it possible for everyone to get the main idea easily. Therefore, the change vision is extremely important for a change process in an organization to be effective.

  1. Creating Sense of Urgency

Establishing a sense of urgency means moving forward as quickly as possible without looking back. This notion is opposite to complacency. In case of complacent employees, it is impossible to make a change project work because of the leader`s failure to convince or persuade the employees that their efforts will be worth their energy and time. Without establishing urgency, it would be very difficult to move on to the next stage because of the employees` lack of commitment to moving forward and dealing with the changes. There is a number of reasons for employees to be complacent (Kotter 2008, 19). One of them is an unpredicted crisis. Without employees seeing the changes needed to resolve the problem, it is impossible for them to be motivated enough to offer their own participation in the changing process. The other reason is low performance standards at the organization. The company may be focused too much on specific ideas without seeing the entire picture. The missions must be attainable, challenging and motivating.  If the employees only see their company succeed, they will see no reason to make an effort, believing that the company simply does not need the changes. Alternately, the company`s management teams can be paying too much attention to detail and not enough to the organizational process. The company also has to be able to provide a fast explanation, including negative feedback, to employees who seek it. In some cases, people are not able to accept the real situation and will simply deny the facts that are too difficult to acknowledge rather than deal with the changes.

To create a sense of urgency, it is important for the leaders to share both bad and good news, to make sure that the management’s actions and the company’s decisions are in agreement with the change process, to show serious attitude towards the changes that are coming, to demand that employees and managers talk with unhappy customers and suppliers directly. It is also crucial to show valid evidence that the changes are important. The managers must use arguments and discuss not only successes, but also failures (Kotter 2012, 44). Therefore, by following all these guidelines, the leaders will be able to make the employees accept the changes and to engage them in the process of introducing the changes to the company`s reality.

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  1. Effective Communication

The communication aspect is crucial in organizational changes. A completely natural reaction managers have to deal with is resistance to changes and new conditions, because most employees feel wary of unknown consequences. Therefore, the main reason for the negative and unsure emotional status is the lack of information and proper communication with the top managers. Because of its ability to decrease the anxiety and insecurity among employees, communication is very important for the change process. With effective communication the emotional safety level will increase (Christensen 2014, 360).  Thus, it is crucial to develop effective communication and information strategies that are supposed to lead the organization to success, otherwise managers` failure to provide employees and top management with sufficient information can bring extremely negative results for the company and provoke cynical attitude toward the changes among the staff. The main goal of the managers is to establish proper relationships between the top management and the employees, because they are the main promoters of the organizational communication. For the communication to be effective it is critical to involve  the employees in a dialog, to use the top-down communication way, explain and discuss all the positive and negative sides and personalize the communication. Moreover, managers have to develop a clear communication plan, a comfortable and effective communicational style, and give the people the opportunity to participate in the process of changing (SHRM 2008, 6). Thus, in the course of effective communication, the employees have to be provided with the information about progress and nature of the changes, the benefits of future decisions and change vision in general.

It is important to understand what factors make communication effective. There are several aspects of effective communication (Gordon 2007, n.p.). The first one is that the actions of managers have to be in agreement with their intentions and goals. The next factor is the top managers` position during the communication process, which means that in the communication process, top managers` behavior has a great impact on the employees and their effectiveness. They have to be able to provide positive influence with their own attitude on the level of communication efficiency and to occupy a wise and skilled position.  It is important to have a personal way of connecting, because this type of communication between employees and top management is very useful. Moreover, this method plays a great role during the change process, because the employees` feedback will be much more detailed than in case with distant communication. The next aspect is two-sided communication, because the highest level of effective communication is achieved by means of dialog. It includes two sides and informational exchange between them that can have positive impact on the work process (Gordon 2007). It is critical to establish shared responsibility for the failures during the communication process. Shared responsibility can make the communication more effective, because every manager has to identify and deal with communicational problems, and then, by involving the participation of the employees, to solve them.

It is also critical to create a communication strategy for the employees to increase the level of communicational effectiveness, because it is important to not only report the information about the changes that are happening, but also explain the process and reasons to get a positive result from this strategy. The employees have to understand the consequences they can expect and the background and reasons behind the top manager’s decisions. The next aspect important for a successful communication strategy is deadline obligations, because managers need to have a plan of what and when they will communicate. Otherwise, anger, dissatisfaction and loss of trust will be the main reaction they receive in the end (Gordon 2007). Communication has huge importance during times of crisis or changes. In this case, the reaction is supposed to be more forgiving, even if there have been some mistakes. Also, it is crucial not to demand that people have to feel a certain way about the changes. Research shows that this approach provokes negative reaction in most cases

  1. Creating Short-Term Wins

A short-term win means an improvement at the company that takes place within the term of six to eighteen months. It has to include three important aspects: a clear relation to the change process efforts, unambiguity, and clear vision in the company surrounding on all levels. It is necessary for the company's progress to achieve short-term wins. Very often, the implementation of the change takes a long time, and top managers can use the short-term wins to reduce the discouragement level born by the slow change process (Kotter 2012, 121). Such wins will also deal with the resistance and cynical attitude of the employees toward the changes, and they can help to form the needed change vision.

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For short-term wins, communication is of importance because reports of daily achievements can lead to the creation of the appropriate change vision. In this kind of communication, phones, office events, emails, personal communication and meetings can be used.  Moreover, celebration of short-term wins can help top managers to motivate their employees to accept the changes, resist the critics and decrease the negative effects of such resistance. 

According to Kotter, because of this factor it is possible to receive feedback for change strategies and vision, take away the skeptical attitude, provide the employees with the motivation for their efforts, convince the people who do not feel sure about the change process and provide the employees with an emotional reward for the hard work they have done.

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