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5 tips to make change happen in your department

Understand how your team reacts to change, and involve them in decisions

The most successful leaders are those that influence their team members to do what he/she wants them to do. This is especially true when it comes to organizational change. Successful change requires the leader to involve all those who might be impacted by the change. This involvement includes sharing the vision, listening and getting feedback. This will help get buy-in and ownership.

It is also important to understand that people are different and consequently react differently to change. Some are change agents and others are change obstacles. However, all want to know how the change will impact them.

Here are some tips to enhance organizational change.

1. Involve the team members who will be impacted by the change. Most people are resistant to change because change often takes them out of their comfort zone. It is important for the leader to sell and justify the necessity for the change. The selling and justifying is enhanced by involving all the group leaders (department senior staff, union leaders, key first-line officers) in the desired change. Their involvement should be to include them in the planning and implementing of the change, even when they are opposed to the change idea. It is important to listen to those opposed to the change. They might have a better way to implement the change. In any event, co-opting the opposition is the best way to get their buy-in.

2. Explain the impact the change will have on the team members both individually and group-wise. Most people are extremely concerned when it comes to changing job status, policy, procedures, and especially change that impacts their finances. In reality, when the status of a team member's job is in danger, he/she really doesn't care about organizational success. We are currently seeing this scenario in the fire service. The poor economy is requiring fire departments throughout the country to cut their budgets. In most cases, 90 percent of a fire department's budget is for personnel. When budget cuts are required it has to impact personnel salaries in the form of pay cuts or elimination of overtime. In this situation no one is happy. Talking about the "good of the organization" will have very little impact on a team member whose pay has been cut.

3. Get as much input as possible. When people are allowed to add their two cents worth regarding change it usually makes them feel less apprehensive about the change. Leaders need to really listen to the team members ideas. However, it should be made clear that "input" does not mean "implementation." The leader must communicate that all input will be taken under consideration, and in the end the leader will make the final decision.

4. Celebrate milestones and small wins in the process. Change is constant in today's organizational environment. Because change is difficult or at least uncomfortable for most people, they need reassurance that they and the change process are heading in the right direction.

5. Recognize the people who help create the change. One of the things that most leaders need to do is recognize the efforts of their people. When people are recognized they usually feel good about what they are doing and are more inclined to keep going in that direction.

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