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If you want an organizational change initiative to fail, ignore what your people are thinking and how they are feeling. Successful change happens when employees feel energetic toward the change.
The book ‘Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change’ [John Wiley & Sons, July 2019] has been composed from research from more than 5 million data points from 2,000 companies over a 15-year period. It concludes that change leaders must energize change management by focusing on performance and health:
Performance is what the organization does to deliver results in operational and financial terms
Health is how effective the organization is at working together to pursue a common goal
In this article, we explore the second of these aspects – the personal nature of change.
Every organization has an embedded culture – ‘the ways things are done around here’. It is developed over years, with approaches and practices handed down from old hands to new employees. It is reinforced by management practices that have been similarly accepted as business as usual.
Organizational change disrupts these accepted practices, but if employees have not been prepared for change then old habits will continue to rule and resistance to change will eventually lead to its failure.
The key is to encourage a shift in mindset, from fear and apprehension to excitement and anticipation of new opportunities. It is this shift in mindset that will produce the shift in behaviors that will energize your change initiative. You need to understand the current mindset and why it exists, then make the change personal, and shape the work environment for change.
Your organization’s mindset – its inherent values and beliefs – is what determines the behavior of its employees. You may know the change in behavior that is needed to make a success of your change initiative, but unless you understand what makes your employees behave the way they currently do then any behavioral change will be short-lived.
In his book ‘How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market’, Professor Gerald Zaltman says that consumers are not as intellectual as they would like salesmen to believe. He concludes that buying decisions are 95% emotional and subconscious. This conclusion is backed up by studies completed by neuroscientists that found that those people whose emotional part of their brain was damaged are incapable of making buying decisions.
This buying decision-making process is important for change managers because employees must engage with the change for it to be successful – they must buy into it. This leads us to conclude that change must be framed so that it creates an emotional pull for the employee – the ‘What’s in it for me?’ process.
Understanding individuals and teams within the change process is critical, for only by framing change in a personal context will people become engaged with it.
Our behavior is also determined by our surroundings as well as our emotional state. If the context in which you are operating changes, your behavior is likely to change too.
Consider watching a band in a theatre. You are seated, and at the end of the evening you’ll clap and leave. Now consider that same band performing in a nightclub. The likelihood is that you’ll be dancing, singing along, and cheering and whistling along with your raucous applause. You are the same person, watching the same event, but because of your environment you have different behaviors.
This concept should be taken into the workplace during a change project. If your people see that things are different, they are more likely to act differently. Leaders must lead by example, communication should be restructured, and supporting processes should be in place.
In summary, effective change management makes change personal by:
Examining current behavior and understanding the root cause of that behavior
Understanding that behavior is largely predicated by emotion, and that emotion is shaped by personal experience and expectations
Reinforcing the personal nature of change and the new behaviors expected by developing the environment to support the change
We help organizations and their leaders and managers to master the personal nature of change and embed the strategies and methods to energize change. To find out more, contact Primeast Primeast.
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