In her book “Radical Candor” Kim Scott expertly illustrates the impact that change has on an organization. Kim describes how as the driver of change she felt that things were moving slow and steady; that she was spinning the lasso [of change] in slow, methodical motion. What she didn’t realize is that she felt as though she were spinning the lasso slowly, it was all the people on the edges of the lasso could do to hand on.
If you are honest with yourself, yes YOU sitting there in the bathroom on your phone, and YOU sitting there at your desk reading this post in a partially minimized browser, YOU are bad at change.
How do I know this? Because I also am bad at change. In fact, we all are. Each and every one of us. This simple fact is the reason why businesses need professionals who are experts in helping others make meaningful and lasting change.
WHY CHANGE IS HARD
The older we get, the harder it is to change. The way we do things and the way we view the world has been deeply ingrained within us for our entire lives. The older we get the less neural plasticity we have [to learn more about this idea, check out The Backwards Bike with my friend Destin Sandlin.]
As adults change is something that is either done to us or that we decide to do. In the case of organizational change, it is probably something that is done around us, but a conscious decision to change with the organization will help things go much smoother.
In short, we must decide to choose the new “B” path, instead of the familiar “A” path until a point in time where the “B” path because of our new default. Change is hard, and successfully changing takes a lot of work.
WHY MANAGE CHANGE
By this point you are probably thinking “I hear you, Adam, change is hard. But, looking at my budget, what am I supposed to do about it?”
Well P&L owner, the fact of the matter is that you will pay the price of change one way or another. There is no avoiding it. Instead of paying the price in terms of turnover, wrecked engagement, and products that reflect the organizational churn lets instead review why we want to manage change to minimize risk to the bottom line.
1: Minimize resistance
Your organization is bad at keeping secrets. The harder and longer you try to keep the noise of change aware from the people in your organization, the more toxic and creative the rumor mill becomes. The best thing to do when the winds of change begin to below is to be transparent with your people, even if being transparent means that you can only be transparent about the fact that you cannot be transparent (IPO, anyone?)
If a leader can be honest about the difficulty ahead, and clearly articulate the need for change, resistance within the organization will be minimized.
2: Increase engagement
Quite simply, if your people know what is going on and why they can support you and each other. Empower each person on the team to be an agent for change, and also encourage teammates to use empathy with their peers to best understand how change is impacting others.
- What is someone afraid of losing?
- What is someone afraid of inheriting?
- Is someone afraid of getting fired?
- Is someone unsure of what it is that they are supposed to do?
You never know unless you ask, and you can never help unless you know.
3: Improve performance
By now most are familiar with the Kubler-Ross change curve:
Though an accurate point for discussion, the reality of change looks more like the Satir model:
Introducing change, no matter the reason, will absolutely cause a short-term, or even near-term dip in productivity and performance.
There will be more than one dip into chaos.
The purpose of Change Management is to be as proactive in identifying and mitigating these dips in order to shorten the amount of time required to reach the new status quo.
Change Management will save you money!
4: Reduce costs
Speaking of saving money let’s count the ways that Change Management will save your organization cash:
- Reduced change adoption time (reduction in churn within the value stream.)
- Reduced risk to product creativity and quality
- Reduced team turnover
- Reduced risk to market commitments
- Improved employee engagement
We all recognize that change is hard. What we also recognize is that today is the absolute slowest pace at which change will take place in business. Change Management is not optional, but a stepping stone to the change resiliency that all organizations will need to have in order to thrive in the new economy.
Next up, models for Change Management.
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