Managing Change: the Rules and the Roles

Remember
when being a newsroom manager meant simply overseeing the quality of your daily
report and those who produced it?
Changes happened from time to time in your organization, and you rolled
with them. 

Today,
change is rampant: new technology, new tasks, new organizational structures,
new ownership, new partners, new products, new competition, new measurements of
success. Today, change is a constant.

Change
brings us opportunity — but also challenge.
Managers must innovate and then implement. But even the best new ideas
and initiatives can be strangled by flawed execution.

Managers
need strategy, support and smarts. They
need to know some rules of change and their own roles in the process. Here
are some essential rules of change — and the roles leaders must play to make
that change successful:

1. Two top change challenges: learning and letting go.

Change
requires us to learn new skills and to let go of past practices and
assumptions. But changing our customs doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning core
values.

The leader’s role: Honor the
past while moving people toward a new vision of success. Provide clarity about
values. If you don’t explicitly marry your vision to values, you are missing an
opportunity to reduce fear — and to inspire. Assume people are worried. Assume they want to hear from you. Don’t assume they know what you want them to
let go and what you’ll never abandon.
Give them specifics.

2. Learning something
new makes us temporarily incompetent.

Intelligent,
competent people experience “learning anxiety” during change. Organizational
psychologist Edgar Schein says we fear loss of status and self-esteem. We fear we’ll be less successful in a new
work team. We even fear punishment.

The leader’s role: Reduce
learning anxiety through training, coaching, promotion of reasonable
risk-taking and tolerance for mistakes. Leaders should be role models for
learning. You don’t have to learn every
new skill that’s been adopted in the newsroom, nor master every piece of new
technology. It would leave you little time for anything else! But do lead the way. Take part in some of the same training that
others are experiencing. It will help
you see the world through their eyes and let them see YOU as a continuous
learner.

3. Emotion can help or hinder change, depending
on how managers handle it.

Harvard
business professor John Kotter believes successful change is built on
understanding and managing emotions. He says the formula that moves people to
action isn’t “Analyze-Think-Change,” where people ingest data, consider it and
then change. Instead, it is “See-Feel-Change,” a process in which they witness a telling event or example
that touches their emotions and inspires them to choose to change.

The leader’s role: Demonstrate — even dramatically — the need
for change so people can see and feel it.
Articulate a clear vision of what success looks like and how it will be measured.
Show examples. Expose the work of early adopters. Provide opportunities for “quick wins” that build momentum and buy-in. Don’t discount the depth of
emotion that accompanies change; expect it.

4. Understanding
motivation helps leaders manage change.

This
requires a knowledge of the unique mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators
that work
for each staffer. Intrinsic motivators are the most powerful of all.

The leader’s role: Focus on the intrinsic motivators, the
internal engines that drive us. Management scholar Kenneth Thomas says they
are: competence, choice, meaningfulness of the work and progress. Help people
know they are making progress as they try new things. Set goals.
Then use the extrinsic motivator of honest praise as people make
progress. But remember: Praise without progress is merely flattery — and people
know it.

5. Collaboration is critical for innovation and
change.

Today’s
change initiatives often require people to step out of their comfortable silos
and into
new work teams. The best of these
collaborations generate innovation and change.

The leader’s role: Identify, cultivate and reward your “boundary
spanners” — staffers who network, build bonds, exchange information and solve
problems. Deploy them as catalysts for change.
Teams that work together for a long time are more likely to produce
incremental improvements than major change.
But when a smart, collegial and dedicated person enters the mix,
bringing fresh skills and a different viewpoint, the team is more likely to
grow beyond improvement to real innovation.
Who are your boundary spanners?

6. Communication fuels successful change
management.

Managers
at every level must take responsibility for communicating vision, values, goals
and strategy. We underestimate the need
for ongoing and custom-tailored communication.

The leader’s role: Communicate a unifying vision for the team,
but also deliver it personally to individuals, framed so they can clearly see
and feel it. If you are holding a group meeting, remember that the meetings
before and after it — the ones you have with individuals — are usually the most
productive. In these meetings you can
focus on each person’s unique hopes, fears and history. Additionally, use every
opportunity to reinforce your message to individuals and groups so it becomes
part of the daily language and life of the organization. Just when you are
getting tired of saying it, it is starting to take root.

Finally,
don’t underestimate the importance of optimism.
Behavioral researcher Daniel Goleman says that the leader’s mood runs
through the room like an electrical current.
The enthusiasm and energy of a respected manager, especially in the face
of challenges, build confidence and courage in the newsroom.

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