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Change Management:
Why do we suck at it?

‘Change’ refers to a process of becoming different. It can also refer to turning one thing into something different, or even replacing, transferring, or evolving it.

The emotion of change is the biggest catalyst to change itself. Not knowledge, or the ‘what’ of the change. And not the content, or the ‘how’ of the change. It’s the emotion – the ‘why’ of the change.

In our consulting work, one of the most frequently asked questions we hear from prospects is, “Is it possible to reinvent an organization – to a new model of productivity, fulfillment, meaning, and joy?”

“The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Alice Walker

It absolutely is.

To invite and manage change effectively into an organization, however, requires a comprehensive understanding of human development and organizational psychology.

Have you ever been in a situation where a new policy or program was rolled out from senior management, or from a group at your workplace, and the implementation was a D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R? Do you remember thinking to yourself, Oh my God, I could do better than that? ☺ Trust me, we have all been there…

In his book, Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux describes so eloquently how humanity has evolved from the earliest forms of human consciousness into the complex consciousness of modern times. He explains how humanity evolves in stages and how there is an ongoing evolvement, a growth that defines our values and paradigms we work under.

Organizations are no different. When we think of changing a process in an organization, let alone the organization itself, we need to think of a continuum. The level of consciousness an organization goes through from the initial introduction of a ‘change’ to consumption of that ‘change’ is a timeline. That timeline will differ, depending on a set of variables, but for any mid-to-large size change in an organization we would be looking at about 1 to 3 years of evolvement. That doesn’t mean operations have to stop and everyone focuses on the change during that period of time. No, the show must go on! The organization needs to run.

It does mean, however, that the change needs to be planned, scoped, scaled, and maintained right next to day-to-day priorities to complement one another, not hinder. And you will undoubtedly start seeing positive impacts of the change in those first three months.

It is exactly this need for evolution – yet the lack of time required to plan, scope, scale, and maintain change – which leads us to ‘fail’ at managing the change.

Many leaders, project managers, and subject matter experts are blinded by their wish to make things right quickly and easily, and tend to forget about the consumer altogether.

When we sit to discuss a change project with a client, the number one element we look to understand in depth is the need (the ‘Why’) of the change; the number two element is the stakeholder group – the consumers of the change. It is absolutely critical to hit these two, and as early as possible.

It is equally important to scale change and build maintenance procedures. With the objective of making things ‘right,’ sometimes, we forget to scale back our change processes. Every organization is different. Its structure is different, and processes, systems, and consumption habits differ. It is very important that we take time to understand the culture and change readiness of the organization, and adjust our ways of delivery accordingly.

Finally, the maintenance.

By the time everyone gets to the finish line, no one wants to talk about ‘change’ anymore, right? I know…Change is not easy. You may be surprised to hear that this is where most of the transitional and transformational change ‘fails.’ To sustain change, we must pay attention to three factors:

  • Continued communication
  • Creation of feedback channels and identification of improvements
  • Role modeling

So, next time you think, Oh, I can do this better, you may want to think again. After ~20 years as an I/O psychologist – and co-leading several transformational projects from start-ups to enterprises – I have learned one thing: Leading change is really not that easy. That’s why the majority of us, pardon me, suck at it! ☺

Date

  • 26 September 2016

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