We might be said to be creatures of habit. But that doesn’t mean we always avoid change. In fact, change is part of our daily life. The most important aspect of implementing change in an organisation is to take the temperature first. How do the organisation’s stakeholders, including its staff and customers feel? One can then look for effective methodologies and focus on the key element of change – the people.
Major changes to one’s environment (e.g. changes to roles/processes/systems/incentives/etc.) can cause people to feel/think that they are no longer “in control”. Also, people fear loss when their environment changes (including potentially losing established work relationships with co-workers when roles and/or processes change).The more people can feel in control, the less resistance the change program is likely to encounter. This is where engagement via honest two-way-communication comes into play.
Based on many studies and our own experience we know that generally people want to change, to improve. However, in companies change projects often assume that something is wrong with the company and employees. It can be more productive to notice what is currently working (continuity) at the outset of the change effort. Honoring the past (success, achievements, structure) and present (what is working now), as well as identifying further improvements to what is already good can boost efforts. We can forget that change does not mean things are bad (although that’s usually the case). Improvement might be from bad to good, but it can also be from good to better. Nurturing the mindset for change – building willingness rather than resistance – can be a more successful approach. We call this the interdependent values of Continuity AND Transformation.
It is key in this approach to open a space to identify the emotional issues – what is it that people expect to lose and why do they think this happening? It is a vital reality check – even if there are overreactions. Asking people shows trust and opens an opportunity to understand the benefits of the future as they see it so this can be used to persuade them.
Typically four levers for change can be assessed:
- Do people understand the change? Is the case for change clear and compelling? Does it stand up to scrutiny?
- Do people like it? Do they trust it? Does it make sense and is it the right thing to do?
- Can people act on it? What tools, processes, systems etc. are necessary for them to act?
- How much do people want to act? How is the environment, momentum and appetite for change?
Helping people “believe” should always be a key step in this process. Not a note from the CEO to staff saying that something is changing and definitely not any kind of coercion, but an open and honest involvement to encourage people to be part of the change journey. With the Synthetron approach for diagnostics we assure our clients get to the real issues quicker. That’s not to say that everyone will be on board or that it is easy. Those resisting the change effort must be engaged in the effort as deeply as the typical change agents.
The fact remains that more than a few senior managers and those who might describe themselves as leaders are reticent about change – because it is a threat to their domains and comfort zones. Finding ways to work with this is part of the challenge of business.