The sign at the door of the supermarket said, “Thank you for your patience while we remodel our store.” Since the store was open 24-hours a day, there was no down time for the destructors to do their work. They hung tarps from ceiling to floor, and behind the “Hard Hat Required Beyond this Point” signs you could hear crunching and scraping of old stuff being ripped out to make way for the new. It was very polite to thank me for my patience before I gave it to them, but at least this is a step above the highway crews who force me into a five mile funnel of traffic cones because bridges are designed and built out of materials that are etched away by salt and bad weather and constantly in need of repair. There is a third way of handling radical change: make it seamless so that the change is barely detectable.
Change happens all around us and in business we are faced with change that is both evolutionary and revolutionary. Either way means people who are depending on a company’s goods and services will be less forgiving of inconvenience when they have other options. In the supermarket analogy we see that even the apology can be frustrating to customers so added incentives are necessary to keep customers ringing up purchases there rather than at a competitor. Sometimes it may be possible to execute a project plan to transition services from one function to another by temporarily duplicating staffing so that there is no degradation of the process flow to customers… like diverting traffic onto a temporary shoulder-lane rather than closing it. Major organizational changes and mergers often require continuous flow seamlessly without interruption. It also involves more than external stakeholders.
From a human resources perspective, a merger that is combining the processes and procedures of two companies into one without disruption to employees is often a challenge that management is not willing to risk. The “small stuff” doesn’t get sweated. For short periods of time a duplication of processes can be tolerated, but it is not fiscally responsible or fair to employees to have two classes of people working at similar jobs within the same company. The problems caused by differences in benefits, payroll, recruiting, and performance management is costly in more ways than dollars. HR management must be up to the task of reporting actual data supporting integration of processes and look at justification based on both cost reduction and productivity improvements. Often it is not a matter of choosing one company’s system over the other since it is a perfect opportunity to implement something radically new and make both sides better.
Change management is a critical part of the human resources staff function. Recognizing the value and ROI for changes adds value to the organization and buys that elusive seat at the table that everybody talks about. Talk is cheap. You get to have clout when you are professionally competent.
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