For most people, accepting change itself isn’t nearly as difficult as dealing with the speed of change. There are those who actually seek out and thrive on the new: the early adopters. Then, there are those who need to go slower, take care, bring others along. Working in, especially running, an organization, the challenge is getting the changes to work for everyone, near the same time if possible. Of course, knowing what to change, and why, and how to communicate and manage the changes themselves are equally important. To many this seems more art than science, but the truth is that science can guide the art.
One place to start would be to focus on the various challenges people have during times of change. Over decades of teaching change management processes in organizations around the world, this list pretty much developed itself:
- People need motivation, means and opportunity to change effectively.
- Each person has their own experiences of, and responses to, change.
- There is a genetically hard-wired predisposition built into human beings to keep the status quo in place, and it must be overcome for changes to be carried out fully.
- Work routines–even ones that “work”–can be disrupted during change initiatives.
- Managing relationships is of utmost importance during change, but also more difficult.
- Communicating about changes, and their reasons and processes, can be equally tricky.
- Conflict is almost inevitable when routines, patterns and relationships are changed.
- Some people tend to freeze and become rigid during changes and challenges, though this is when they probably need to be most flexible (and the organization most agile).
- During times of change people may need to learn lots of new processes and procedures, often more quickly than is comfortable or natural for them.
- Change happens at multiple levels: environment, behavior, capability, belief and even identity–but knowing which one(s) to concentrate on is another issue all by itself.
- Stress is nearly always inevitable–and crucial to attend to–for everyone involved.
- Measurements and assessment of the effects of change need to be developed and implemented to insure that the efforts are worthwhile and “self-reinforcing.”
- The “reverberation cycle” in organizations and systems is always operating: it takes time for information to move through a system and return to its source.
- Organizational culture will either support or hinder change, and the culture itself will also change when processes, patterns and communication channels are re-organized.
- People will resist, or sabotage, change if they don’t feel safe in the process.
Quite a list. Each of those, and others we left out, could easily be a chapter in a very long book. Of course some are already books …. We hope the list is not too overwhelming, but if you’re reading this you most likely have some experience in managing changes. You know what we’re talking about. And remember, these features exist in organizations and even inside us.
If all that weren’t enough, we have to remember that each individual is unique. So, one useful place to focus on is peoples’ personality styles. Fortunately, as most of us know, these can be arranged into some reasonably simple categories. In business many people have some experience with personality inventories, for example the MBTI or the DiSC. These can be a beginning place for a basic understanding of how people respond to change. In the DiSC, for instance, two of the personality styles, D and i, actually find change exciting and natural. The other two, C and S, much less so but for different reasons. The C personality style means careful or cautious, which means they typically want change to go only as quickly as all the t's can be crossed and the i’s dotted (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). They want it to be safe, which makes it take longer. The S personality style stands for steady or stable which means they want the change to go at a smooth pace. Also, they want everyone to be brought along together, with no one left behind or made to feel too uncomfortable.
So how does this help us? In communication. Taking these differences into account when presenting needed changes can be a tremendous help. Knowing what to focus on is the key. The D and i styles are usually fine when they hear about changes, so it’s no trouble telling them about what will be different. But the others may feel threatened by that. So, better to begin with what will stay the same. (In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP, we call this process pacing.) This will give them a firm foundation to feel safe and secure. Then, when introducing change, they will be more comfortable and accepting, which is important for getting buy-in. Of course, when presenting changes to an entire organization, the best bet is to always account for the needs of everyone. Psychological needs are just as important as any. We wouldn’t want to think some people are being “resistant” to change when in fact they are just trying to meet their natural psychological needs. If we can help with them, we should.
This is a simple example how taking just one small feature of how people work–and adjusting your communication accordingly–can make a big difference in getting buy-in and engagement. Of course this is just a very simple example, using a very basic tool that many people in organizations (especially in HR, OD or training) are already familiar with or even currently using. However, we now have way more sophisticated tools than these personality inventories that can help with the change process, and a lot more.
For example, our Talent Developer system focuses on actual functions that people need to engage in to be successful in their work. It is not a personality inventory. Talent Developer is much more thorough than that and much more specific in terms of effectiveness in a number of ways. It can give highly accurate estimations of someone’s potential to develop in a job over time. The areas it can show include specific self-competencies like resilience, motivation, desire to develop themselves and even belief in themselves. It also shows leadership potential including organizational skills, initiative and a readiness to take on a leadership role. It even includes measures of social skills like being able to work well with others and having a positive attitude about other people. Obviously, these cover some key elements of that long and complicated list we shared above.
Beyond all this, we have many more sophisticated approaches to communication as well. In addition to our Talent Developer system, we have Neuro-Linguistic Programming based consulting and training, targeted coaching and more. These all help us in understanding people at all the levels we’ve been talking about. If we can understand how people work, especially in challenging times when change is the norm, we can use that knowledge to the advantage of everyone involved. This can really help the organization as a whole.
We will be exploring some of these ideas in much more depth in future blog posts, white papers and webinars. And, when it’s time, we’ll have live training again as well. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to contact us any time and we can share some of these tools and approaches with you.
Sid Jacobson, PhD
Director, Lean Talent Systems
LTS has expertise, experience and tools to help you with in your organization. These include an automated Lean Recruiting system. An advanced Talent Developer system. Training, coaching, consulting and more. We can help you create a future worth having. You can contact us any time through a Linked In message or click the Contact Us Now button below.