YOU have heard it all before. In the current climate of mergers and acquisitions mania, you are constantly told to embrace change.

You have to be leaner and faster and create more growth and profit.

Does this sound familiar?

Take heart, whatever level you are at in your organisation, there are practical things you can do to survive the inevitable changes that are on their way.

For leaders

If you have just been given the task of leading change in your organisation, your first task should be to create a vision for the first 100 days.

This needs to be something that you can articulate in one sentence, explaining what your organisation will become and by when.

One question you must ask is whether your new vision statement inspires you. If it does not, it will not inspire anyone else.

Change is emotional, and people will respond to it differently at different stages.

Start by getting connected within your organisation. Mobilise your staff, remove barriers, see through the politics and bring the vision to life.

Placing a high value on innovation will be vital in creating solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems - something that can be done only in a climate of trust, collaboration and creativity.

Expect people to push back - either by blatantly refusing to cooperate or, perhaps, by agreeing to something but never quite finding the time to follow it through.

It could be useful to identify people who really support the change and give them positions of influence.

Likewise, you have to identify the most influential resistors to find out why they are against the change, and work out how to win them over.

You should create your vision with your management team, communicate it to everyone and then set up small teams throughout the organisation to work on specific problem areas.

Small teams visibly working on change projects will be noticed quickly, which will help to build the momentum you need, particularly if you have a well-structured internal communications system in place.

For followers

If you are not in a leadership role, you will be able to see something big coming down the line towards you.

The best place to start is to always seek accurate information.

Talk to your line manager and find out when the next communication event is scheduled.

Sort out the myths from the facts, and avoid "emotional vampires" who will suck you dry of energy by telling you why this is wrong for you, the organisation and business in general.

Get involved. Typically, any organisation going through a big change will expect to lose some of its workforce because these workers do not fit in with the new vision.

Do not be among those just because you have not bothered to find out how to make it work for you.

To deal with change with as little pain as possible, you will need to work fast, stay focused, be flexible, cope with the demands of ambiguity and take control of your own destiny.

The people who survive change will be those who embrace it, taking the lead and taking others with them so that the whole organisation is moving in the same direction.

Ten common pitfalls to avoid

1. Not communicating the hard messages - for example, potential job cuts. People will think that redundancies are coming any way and blow the issue out of proportion.

2. Not ensuring that every member of the leadership team is "on message". Slightest variations in the information communicated will be picked up and spread around the company.

3. Pushing the change down from the top, rather than involving people from the bottom up too. If they are not engaged and do not see any benefits for them, change is unlikely to happen.

4. Failing to provide space and support for people to think through the personal implications of change. The key to success is understanding "what's in it for me".

5. Ignoring or fighting "troublemakers". These are often crucial individuals, and if you can win them over by responding to them effectively, they can become your most powerful allies.

6. Not reviewing your progress regularly. You will not be able to correct your course if you plough on regardless.

7. Focusing on the rational at the expense of the emotional and political - that is, proceeding with no understanding of what people feel. If you do this, the change will not stick.

8. Focusing on the emotional and political at the expense of the rational. As with all things in life, there needs to be a balance.

9. Thinking "it won't happen to me". Ignore the change and it won't go away, but you might get sidelined as a result.

10. Going along with the most vocal group. Often, those who make an impact through the change process are not the usual (loud) suspects, but those who have grown in confidence by using it as an opportunity to progress.