How ‘should’ we attempt to introduce Change to an organization?
- Know Change in General – Study Change Theory and Models
- Know this Change – How have other orgs implemented this Change?
- Establish Rapport – Connect with the group – don’t be an ‘outsider’
- Understand the Status Quo – Before Changing a situation – Know the situation
- Create Desire to Change – Find the points of leverage for Change
- Change Desire into Action – Find opportunity to take baby steps
- Reinforce new Behaviours – All change, no matter how small, is rewarded
- Create Closure – Celebrate The achievement of Change – prepare for next one.
Change is difficult, but not as difficult as we tend to make it. There is a process – too complex to summarize fairly in 8 lines – so consider this merely the tip, of the tip, of the iceberg.
Change in Eight Steps
Regardless of when you read this, who you are, what you do, your age, or your position – you have, are and will either suffer from a Change initiative, or initiate a Change. This is what the cliché, “The only constant is Change’ is trying to communicate. We are steeped in Change.
Given that the cliché is true, that Change is unavoidable, it makes some sense to gain a deeper understanding of the Change Process. Especially if we’re trying to change our organizations, departments, teenage children or our communities. With this in mind, here’s a very brief overview of a minimalist eight step methodology.
1 – An understanding of some basic Change concepts
We do not respond randomly to the possibility of change to our existing situation, there are behavioural patterns that we follow almost robotically without thinking. If I were to walk into your office and tell you do, what you’re currently doing, ‘differently’, your immediate (and predictable) response is to ask me, “Why?”
What is unreasonable is for me to be surprised by your response, or for me to consider that response a form of insubordination or intransigence. This is just one of many predictable responses to Change. The more of these we’re aware of? The more ability we have to implement Change with a greater chance of success.
Gaining this basic knowledge of how we tend to respond to Change is neither difficult, nor costly. While there are hundreds of books on the subject – I’ve written one – I’d suggest starting with “The Diffusion of Innovations” authored by Everett M. Rogers, published by Free Press.
2 – How has the Change we’re trying to implement played out in other organizations?
We aren’t unique. Every Change we’ve ever implemented, or might think of implementing, has most likely been attempted by somebody else. More likely? Their exists an entire community of organizations which have attempted to implement what we’re nervously about to attempt. Find them. Interrogate them. Learn from their mistakes.
There’s a Chinese proverb that sums our opportunity to learn from the experience of others very nicely, “To know the road ahead? Ask those coming back.”
3 – Establish Rapport
Why rapport with the target audience is important is made clear if we decide to follow the advice in point #1. Rapport, is vital to Trust, and the more Trust we have – the easier it is to Change. I Trust some of my doctors and will follow their advice without question. The ones I don’t Trust have a difficult time convincing me to do anything. This seems obvious – but it isn’t obvious enough based on the tales of failed Change in many organizations.
Rapport with the audience we’d like to Change is necessary if we are not to be perceived as an untrustworthy outsider. If we are perceived in that manner? Then our ability to be an “Agent for Change” is severely compromised.
4 – Understand existing Status Quo
To Change a thing, is to destroy a thing. That concept was succinctly voiced by Pablo Picasso when he stated, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”
Change always destroys an existing Status Quo. One of most commonly stated reasons for a Change failure, is that the Change was dictated by upper management who had no clue what was happening on the shop floor, and how their mandated Change would negatively affect the operations.
It is as important to understand the existing Status Quo as it is to understand where we’re trying to get to.
5 – Create a desire to Change
Consider these two scenarios a) your child asks (demands?) that you teach them to ride a bicycle and b) you insist that your child learn how to ride a bicycle even though they have told you they don’t want to ride a bicycle.
Simple question for anyone contemplating a Change within their organization. Which child is more likely to learn how to ride the bicycle with a minimum of fuss and bother? I’ve never met anyone who did not know the correct answer to this question – but applying the insight that enables that correct answer seems to vanish when we are working with organizational Change.
The psychological situation is exactly the same regardless of whether we are talking about children or organizations. We are far more likely to embrace a Change when it is our idea, than when it is someone else’s idea. The challenge for the ‘Change Agent’ is to figure out a way of getting their involvement; making it their idea; getting them to demand a Change – rather than us insisting that they Change.
6 – Convert desire into action
Change doesn’t just happen – it requires a plan. What will we do differently tomorrow? What will stay the same? What will we do next? What risks are we willing to embrace? What will we stop doing so that we have the time to learn how to do things differently?
7 – Reinforce new behaviours
When someone does something good, that we’d like them to do again, we throw them a ‘cookie’. We recognize the change in behaviour and reward it in some manner. We thank them, we provide time off, we promote people, we pay bonuses. We know this process of ‘behaviour modification’ works, we use it all the time. When our child rides 10 feet and then falls off the bicycle, we don’t chastise the child, we applaud their failed effort to achieve the elusive goal of balancing on a moving object.
If you’re already doing this in your Change initiatives? Atta boy! You’re doing it right! (did you see what I did there?)
8 – Create Closure
Change is always going to be a difficult process – learning new skills takes effort and even if we, in the process, fall off the bicycle a few times. At the end of it all, a celebration is in order. At the very least it’ll give people a push to embrace the next Change we inflict on them.