‘Can we call it something else? How about initiative? Or recalibration?…or…?’ He trailed off…he just wanted to avoid the C word! How about embracing the C word, how about we put it front and centre, I suggested. The tightening of his facial muscles did not indicate overwhelming agreement with my proposition! ‘They are change exhausted, they’ll revolt!” he responded. I asked if they were likely to feel any better with the word change being replaced by another? We then got to the real discussion:
Why change? What change? How to manage the change? What outcome?
In working with leaders around change, there can be too often a ‘them and us’ mindset. The leadership team decide that change is needed and they ‘deliver’ it to the workforce. They then get into a ‘circle the wagons’ narrative that says: the organisation is resisting, they are not able to take the longer view… They wonder why, after huge effort, that many change projects have minimal success rates. This fact has been shown over and over again – the work of John Kotter indicates that over 70% of change initiatives don’t work!
To be in leadership today is to be able to lead change today. Knowing what needs to change is not enough! Knowing why change is necessary is not enough! Change is a whole organisation endeavour, a whole organisation behaviour – that is if you want change to matter, if you want change to occur, if you want change to be sustained.
Diagnose, Design, Deliver
- ‘With’ is your watchword in change – without it you are lost!
- Diagnose with your organisation why change is needed and what change is needed
- Design with your organisation how that change is to be managed
- Deliver that change with your organisation
Working in organisational behaviour and development, I have learned that ‘with’ is my friend – it may take me a bit longer but I will learn more, I will lead better, I will involve others effectively…and the change impact is greater.
While death and taxes may be inevitable, we don’t want to rush either!
So with change – too much leads to organisational fatigue and de-motivation. Listening to your organisation as a leader or manager is crucial to pacing change but more fundamentally is providing a compelling rationale. Resistance to change is about me knowing where my comfort zone is, where I am making a good contribution and resisting leaving this zone. Change invites (or if badly managed propels) me out of the comfort zone to the stretch zone (or if badly managed, the panic zone). A rationale for the change gives me the motivation I need to go with not go against.
Leaders have usually taken the time to figure out trends in the market that indicates change is needed – they need to afford their people the same time to work with the rationale of the change. This is time well spent if you want your change initiative to be in Kotter’s 30% of successful change projects.
Luke Monahan is an accredited mediator, nationally and internationally, with expertise in workplace conflict ‐ accredited with the Mediation Training Institute in the USA and the Mediation Institute of Ireland. He is an Executive coach and certified in emotional intelligence measurement and coaching. Luke teaches on the IMI Diploma in Organisational Behaviour.