There used to be only two certainties in life. Death. And taxes.
Now there’s three. Death, Taxes and Change.
So given that change is constant, and that the rate of change is increasing, it’s no surprise that organisations are playing catch up with regards to their ability to effectively manage change. In my experience, the approach is wrong. There is too much emphasis on processes and systems and not enough focus (or the wrong lens at least) on the people aspect.
Take this for consideration. Most change communication treats people like idiots. The change team proudly announces that the future is bright, the change will be well managed, that the new (system, structure, machine, whatever) will solve all the problems of the old one and that the numerous benefits will fall from the sky like mana from heaven. Okay, so I’m taking some poetic license but you get my drift. What they do is sell the dream. In reality change is messy, uncertain, complicated and may not deliver all the benefits hoped for, but may produce unexpected benefits, and most definitely requires the emotional buy-in of the people involved in the change. So we’ve got high expectations and the likelihood that it (the change) won’t be as successful as hoped for and you’ve got the classic “over promise – under deliver” scenario. Not a good one. Tell people the truth. Let them know the reasons for the change/s. Empower them to have input into the change, to take responsibility for their contribution and support them in the various ways they engage in the transition. Then you’ll likely find that people’s experience is “Well, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be…” And that’s an under promise / over deliver scenario which is much better.
I’ll talk more in other entries about Change Management, it’ll be my focus for a few week I think. Right now, here’s an image that is often used to allow teams and individuals to locate themselves at any stage of a transition.
It’s a great reminder that people engage in very different ways and that your view on how, why, what etc… may not (is not) the only possible view. When working with teams in change I’ve used this to great effect to get people to tell their story and in doing so access the support or information they need to succeed in the transition.
Let me know what you think. Have you been involved in a great change project? What about a disaster? I’d love to hear your stories.