Communication, attitude are key for successful change

  • Published
  • By Col. Ken Wilsbach
  • 53D Wing
Change is all around us these days. In order to successfully live in our world we must adapt. No one knows this better than Airmen of the U.S. Air Force. We frequently change jobs, permanent change of station, career fields as well as procedures that are handed down to us from our leadership. Change is inevitable, but many resist change. 

I had to ask myself why people resist change. One reason people don't like change is because they have become accustomed to the current state of affairs. Another reason people don't like change is because change may bring about a shift in the balance of power. Also, change often causes more work initially in adjusting to the new circumstances. Whatever the reason, changes often bring about resistance in the workplace. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an advocate of change for change's sake, but rather making changes for improvement. One of the strengths of Airmen is their ability to assess a situation, and offer solutions. Implementing smart changes to solve a problem is exactly what we need our Airmen to do. It goes along with one of the tenants of airpower: centralized control and decentralized execution. We have the smartest and most motivated military that has ever been assembled, and we should take advantage of that strength by tapping into that great talent. 

There are two aspects of change management I would like to address. The first is how the leadership can bring about a change that sticks, and the second is how those who the change influences can react to the change. 

Let's start with how leadership can effect the change more efficiently. Communicating with those who will go through the change is so important. Explaining in clear terms why the change is necessary and how the change is going to be carried out will pay huge dividends in the long term. It is also important for supervisors to get inputs from subordinates on how to execute the change. People tend to buy into a change when they feel they are part of the solution. Changes that fail in the execution phase are often forced on workers who had a better way of bringing about the end result of the change, but were not consulted by management. 

The people who are being affected by the change also have a responsibility. First, attitude plays a big role, and a positive outlook can overcome deficiencies in the plan. Attempt to be a part of the solution, but if that isn't possible, give constructive feedback to your supervisors so they can adjust the plan as it is being executed. Remember, no plan survives contact with the enemy, further changes are almost always necessary. 

In conclusion, there isn't a lot we can do to stop change, but there is a lot we can do to make the changes that come about better. I challenge us all to implement these and other steps to improve what we do to the betterment of our service.