Building the Bridge to Change: How Mindful People Management Can Improve the Process of Change
Change. Like death and taxes, it's a constant.There are variety junkies (like myself) who crave change and those who will move mountains to avoid it. How many times have you heard someone say something like… "but I've always done it this way – it works fine as it is!"? ("Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours." – Richard Bach.)
"I don't like change" is really "I don't like not knowing what is ahead and how it affects me." It has been said that people will do more to avoid pain than to experience pleasure – and let's face it, 'change' is perceived as painful for many. But there's a reason for that, which we'll get to soon.
70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, in large part due to employee resistance. (McKinsey)
At OpusXenta, we are in the business of innovation and change. In my career, I have spent over a decade transforming lives and cultures. Our solutions enable a Cemetery or Funeral Director's business systems to evolve and improve, and we are moving the process of making bookings by phone into the cloud. Change means that your maps are digitized, records secured, and business data captured. I am extremely familiar with the challenges and effects of change from an organizational and professional perspective. So how can these experiences be leveraged to better support you to manage change – of any size?
Change management - terminology we are all familiar with.
A typical change management plan might look something like this:
Some notable methods of change management, according to the global organization, the American Society for Quality (ASQ), include preparing and supporting employees, establishing the necessary steps for change, and monitoring pre- and post-change activities to ensure successful implementation. But what are the necessary steps?
While documented steps and processes will help employees adapt; there is one over-arching tool that I believe assists us to lead our people through the change process effortlessly.
"The Bridge" takes limiting beliefs, fears, assumptions, stress, and rejections across to expansion of ideas, confidence, clarity, well-being, and acceptance.
73% of change-affected employees report experiencing moderate to high stress levels. (McKinsey)
Right at the center of the bridge is 'the story.' The story pulls our people forward. It gives them a point of focus and creates momentum. Without forward momentum, the greatest of plans can fail. We need people to bring them to life.
The ideal story will address the specific needs of our people. It will be told early, often, and to all. The story will cater to the specific needs of all employees at all levels in the organization. We each have a need to:
- Feel important (to the team/organization/process/project)
- Feel certain (of the steps, reasons, support, 'what if' strategy, job security, and role)
- Feel part of something bigger than self (by being asked for our input, feedback, and contribution to the change process plans)
- Feel confident in learning something new (knowing we will be trained well and given appropriate time to learn)
- Feel part of a team/group (who are combining their skills and energy to make this new project succeed)
Simon Sinek tells us we need to know our why – that passion follows purpose when doing things that align with our personal 'why.' In reality – when we know 'why' (and 'how' and 'what' and 'when' and 'who') we will be across all of the detail that allows us to feel confident to move forward, across that bridge of change. Without this detail (aka story) – we are without knowledge. We can feel disempowered or disconnected. (This is the 'fear' of change.) When we have the gaps filled - we are no longer talking about the unknown and focused upon change – we are now talking about our new day-to-day role and how to succeed within it. We are coming together to create a culture that will support the processes that will drive the change.
In successful change management, our people are informed, they are included in decisions and planning, acknowledged and praised for their part in the process, which encourages them to continue to step forward and, at times, out of their comfort zone. They do this as they know who has their back and how they will support them. (By the way, that's us, the leaders.)
Six Tips to Make that Bridge Shorter.
- Tell your people as much as they can be told – as early as possible – and acknowledge their concerns. Don't rush the mind to accept the news immediately.
- Give people a role in the project. Appoint change champions, direct the 'worry warts' to these champions for reassurance and guidance throughout the project. (Think of the 'worry warts' – what will be the tasks that will cause them concern? How can you alleviate this?)
- All feedback is GREAT feedback. Host regular all-in meetings where your people can ask open questions and receive empathetic and honest responses ("I am worried that I will not be able to cope with the rate of change to the new system." Could be met with… "that is perfectly understandable and here is why we believe you will be 100% OK…")
- Be a vulnerable leader – own the mistakes without blame and emotion and be the model of flexibility and solution focus that your people will admire and follow. Use empowering language: state it as you want it, in the positive, as if it has already been achieved. (Rather than "this will be hard" – try "we're going to grow through this process and feel fabulous by the successful close out of it.")
- Give people a value proposition to motivate them to change their routines and tasks (not money). 'What's in it for me?' is the common question not asked out loud. You will gain more time to… You will be able to pull reports that will allow you to… There will be no more late nights doing…
- Accept that without the story (the who, what, when, where, and why), without your people's 'needs' being met, and without consistent open communication, change will be challenging. It will cost the business.
At OpusXenta, we have worked with many organizations who manage change well with respect for the people involved in the process, bringing them into the vision with empathy and support from the get-go.
BEWARE: When we leaders fail to tell the story, our employees will create their own. That personal story will align with each employee's fears, concerns, and beliefs about the change. ("They're doing it to cut costs. I'll lose my job." "They don't care about the customer as much as I do – this will downgrade my ability to do what I care most about." "They don't understand the day-to-day needs of my role.")
Bottom line? People drive change.
Plan a people journey that makes them part of the change.
Whatever your company's change entails, it's likely the change will impact several aspects of the business—such as financials, operations, customer service, sales, systems, or all of the aforementioned. Even with so much to consider, we must manage with respect and care, lead by example, put people over process, and bring our employees into the discussion from stage one.
A mind will embrace the change when it perceives value.
And to close… the most important part of the change management process: CELEBRATE EVERY WIN ALONG THE WAY. A new skill learned, a goal achieved, an effort shown, a contribution made. The celebration embeds a positive neural connection to the action.
Change – a necessary part of growth.
About the Author
General Manager ANZ, OpusXenta
With a passion and expertise in human development, leadership communication, and customer-centric business strategies, Helen has spent the lion's share of her career to date in senior business leadership roles. "When we are lead well, we do well."
Organizational culture development and change management underpin an organization's values, upon which the code of behavior is built.
In her role as General Manager of the ANZ Region, Helen is charged with the responsibility of delighting our customers and developing our people as we grow our offering.