I have been learning about and experimenting with change as a principal for ten years. What I have repeatedly found is not shocking: people don't like it. In fact, their face will fall and a white pallor will overcome them at the mention of a new ____ (insert term here). It could be a program for them to win $10 a day for life, and there would still be a cautious, narrow-eyed stare.
Knowing your people is the first step to implementing change. Which employees will barrage you with questions about logistics, which will cry, which will nod their head but fantasize about cutting your tires, which are excited about the new change but social conventions forbid them from showing excitement, which are confused by change, and which are going to dig their heels in and scowl. When you can put your people into these and/or your own categories, you can tackle change individually BEFORE the change is rolled out.
What we'll focus on today is what I call planting seeds. When you have a large or small change initiative to implement, whether beneficial, tough, or mandated, you need to pre-load and beta test the change elements. Go to your "question barrage" people to ask their opinion and get feedback so you will have all of the questions hammered out when roll-out begins. Go to your "excited, but reserved" group to talk about their perspective and the "what-ifs" and "it would be cool ifs" to give you ideas about next steps. Talk with your "digging heels in" group to see their perception of the current state of affairs in the arena of the change--is it bad/good/crazy enough to warrant change--and how as a matriarch/patriarch of the campus or corporation they can they help define some of the change for their team or division.
Once you have planted the seeds, you will have enough pre-conversations to make the rest of the crowd look to those aforementioned groups for guidance as to how to react. When your "question barrage" folks are less question-ey and your "digging in" group become the ones in the know about the change, the rest of the group seems to take a breath and you can move forward.
Knowing your people and planting seeds are part of your change arsenal. Additional steps and insight will be discussed in upcoming posts.