Three questions to improve your change strategy

Change, change, change… is it all about change? The only constant in life is change. However, it seems harder and harder to implement new strategies in organizations. Today, change has to be handled in complex, fast moving and sometimes multicultural environments. This multifaceted aspect of organizations may discourage some and raise the interest of others. At the end of the day, we can say that at whatever level of the organization change is not easy. It is a time when you have to accept that what was there today and yesterday will not be there tomorrow. It may also be a time of self doubt and questioning: will I be up-to-date? Will I be part of the organization’s future? Will I adapt fast enough? What if it gets worth for me?

Since very young we react to change. Some children love to go to school for the first time while other just don’t want to hear about it. There are the early “change” enthusiasts and those who need more time to get use to the new state of things.

In fact, 70% of change initiatives in organization fail. Even if change is present all along our life we do not know how to handle it. Will you accept an operation with 70% of failure rate? I bet you won’t.  Still organizations invest time and money on change management processes that have more chance to fail than to succeed. Only a few people in organizations have an understanding of change management. They know models like Lewin’s Model of change (Unfreeze > Change > Refreeze) which were develop to understand and help deal with change. Unfortunately, change did not become easier with those. All models are different interpretations of the same process with different methodology to arrive to the desired goal. Most of the model concentrate on identifying the need for change, communicate, analyses change impact, make the change happen and keep the change alive. They forgot the principal agent of change: people psychology.

How many leaders have tried to change a process or a habit? For example, you may see the need to improve the billing process. The leaders were aware of this need, spoke about it and had a good idea of the final result: A more effective billing system. At the end, they failed to create a sustainable change even if they followed all the stages of the change model they decided to use. Why? They forgot the following things:

  • The understanding of your own reaction to change.
  • The importance of employees' needs and point of view. 
    • Maybe changing the billing system as the leader suggested will create more paper work for some employee. We all know that almost no one likes paper work…
    • Maybe the employees have a better solution than the one suggested and the billing system should not be changed but the way you archive documents.
  • The attachment to old habits.
    • We are attached to our rituals, conceptions of the perfect day at work and so on. Change will just mess up with it and we may not be able to handle the modification of our ritual. 
  • The misunderstanding of the “reason” for change.
    • Some employee may simply not understand why the change is necessary because they are not directly and clearly informed. 

I have few suggestions for you. It is all about inquiry and refocusing your work on people behavior and emotions. You should  ask the following questions:

  • What do we want to achieve? 
    • Be clear about the goal of the change: do you want to create a new service, improve or stop one? Is your goal more efficiency or a better customer service?
  • What could be done at the employee, manager and C-suite level to achieve the organization goal? 
    • Depending on the size of the organization: create focus groups in each department and level. Answer the question: “how can we achieve our goal from your point of view?”
    • Find common trends in people answer.
    • Create a change process based on the results of your findings. 
  • Where will employee need support to adapt to the change? 
    • Evaluate the need for training and/or coaching.
    • Evaluate change reactions with the Change Diagnostic index

The change process should be easier to handle for everyone because you determined the change need while involing all employees in the discussion . There is nothing worth than an imposed change to create strong reactions. The more you empower your employee, the more your organization will grow and develop innovative solutions.

Some employee may be totally okay with any change you suggest and trust you to take decisions for them. It is always better to offer to employee the possibility to express themselves concerning a potential change. Even if they trust you, you better verify with them that the change you envision is suitable to them. Afterward, you won’t have to pay the consequence of a bad informed team  that do not act on the change suggested.

Change is all about balance.

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