Change is an important, exhilarating, and rewarding part of business. It can also be stressful. In fact, psychologists say that change at work is one of life’s biggest stressors.1 Luckily, feeling anxious when “change is afoot” is completely normal. Neurologically, the uncertainties that come with change generate a “threat” response in your brain.2 To reduce change-related anxiety, you need to reduce the uncertainty.
At Foundry, when we create custom software applications, our goal is to help our clients change their businesses for the better. So, all of our clients are undergoing change. We’ve designed our process—from initial strategic explorations to testing the final product—to help clients reduce uncertainty.
Additionally, over the years, we’ve noted 5 key practices that help people (and their organizations) navigate change with confidence:
1. Start with the end in mind
In your personal life, change is sometimes about the journey. But, with organizational change, it’s always about the destination. That means you—and your team—need to envision what the change will accomplish and the impact it will make. Imagine yourself in the future and see how it feels. (Think about: Will this initiative change the industry? How will it help your customers succeed? Are you going to get a promotion? Do more interesting work? Hire more people?) When you focus on the positive impact the change could create, you will feel more confident about taking on the journey.
2. Talk to someone who’s been there, done that
An internet search, textbook, or YouTube video can only tell you so much about reducing uncertainty during change. Your best bet is to talk to people who have been through the same kind of change you’re navigating now. They can tell you what to expect and what things to look out for. Instead of extrapolating ideas from a blog post, you can ask your “change mentor” pointed questions that are truly relevant to your situation. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll feel more prepared for what’s next.
If you’re wondering how to find someone who has experienced your situation, ask agencies/vendors you’re working with to recommend some past clients. Or ask for advice on LinkedIn. Most people are happy to share their knowledge.
3. Get familiar with things you don’t understand
Being afraid of things we don’t understand is a natural, human instinct. So, if there are aspects of the project that are new to you, take the time to learn more about them. For example, if you’re unfamiliar with a new technology, ask for a quick explanation of how it works. The more you know, the better you’ll feel.
4. Create trusted partnerships
One of the biggest change challenges is trusting new partners and vendors. Building a professional partnership is a walk-jog-run situation. If you start off well, the momentum will increase as you go. So, look for ways to build trust early—during the dating phase. Get to know the team, learn about each other’s values, establish communication channels, discuss expectations, etc. And if you’ve had a bad experience in a similar previous engagement, be sure to talk to your new partners about it. Discuss what you learned in your previous project, what went wrong, and how the new vendor will help you avoid similar situations.
5. Make change—and change adoption—a team effort
Most organizational transformations are spearheaded by a small group of change champions. But those champions alone can’t make change happen. They need the whole team to get on board. That means getting cross-functional team members involved early—IT, marketing, finance, R&D, the works. Why? Because even small changes impact the entire organization. If you want the team to adopt the change later, start by getting their input early. When you bring everyone along on the journey, they’ll already be invested in the result.
Change is growth for you and your organization
Our culture celebrates innovators and changemakers for good reason: change is the only path to growth. Yes, change can be challenging, but challenging the norm is the whole point. When you approach change from a confident and cross-functional perspective; change becomes enjoyable, impactful, and truly innovative.
Looking to use custom software to change your organization? Contact us to learn how we can help make it happen. We’d love to work through your project together.
1. The American Institute of Stress, Workplace Stress
2. Psychology Today, A Hunger for Certainty