Things Change, People Transition: Change as a Process

In general, change isn’t complicated, but it is complex. In its simplest form we use terms like; to alter, shift, adjust, move, switch, transfer, etc. Change is a transformation or transition from one phase, condition, or state, to another.

From a change management perspective, assumptions that each individual impacted by a new initiative will always experience change on time, on budget and on schedule, is flawed, because this approach lacks context and doesn’t always consider the people side of change. It may not consider outcomes and results after the change or ask what behaviors need to change and be sustained. Organizational and personal change have to be approached and measured differently because people embrace or resist change differently. No two are alike.

Organizational and personal change have to be approached and measured differently because no one will embrace or resist change the same. Individual Response to Change Management BestBehavior doesn’t happen in a predictive order and as a result, it is imperative to think about change as a process, rather than a project.

Things change. People transition.

The change curve was created in the 1960’s by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as a way to explain the grieving process. Over time, it has evolved as a tool to help people understand responses and reactions to significant change. Since change is a non-linear process, some people may take two steps forward and one step back along this curve for a number of reasons. Some examples might include:

  • Assumed or no role clarity for the change
  • No visible support and commitment from leadership
  • Lack of project, organizational and individual change integration
  • Those impacted do not feel they have had input into the process
  • Leaders and/or impacted people are not engaged
  • No consistency in change messaging formats, channels and frequency
  • Lack of transparency about why the change is happening
  • People impacted don’t understanding of “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)
  • Business readiness or training may have limited or no understanding of adult learning theory application
  • People don’t feel permission to speak with candor
  • Past performance with organizational change could create assumptions that history will repeat itself
  • Impact on current role and/or fear of losing a job

There are countless strategies and tools we can use to help us to understand where people fall on the change commitment curve and then subsequent strategies to take corrective action. As change management practitioners, we focus on results, outcomes, reinforcement and realization of benefits (including ROI), for the people side of change. We do this using a structured, yet flexible set of tools, processes, skills and principles to achieve the required goals of projects and initiatives.

What challenges and approaches have you experienced or used to help bring people impacted by the changes along for the journey?

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Individual Change Commitment for Increased Adoption

Some days I have a “love-hate” relationship with blogging because it isn’t a clean, cut and dry process. Although I have an idea of what I want to write, it takes time to figure out how to put the words together.

Bird by Bird,” a book about writing by author Anne LaMott, contains a brilliant piece called; “Shitty First Drafts” (SFD) where she explains why the first draft we write is always the worst. It is usually longer than it needs to be, it may not flow well, etc. Towards the end of this excerpt, she states; “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up.

In her book “Rising Strong,” Brene Brown applied Anne’s concept of SFD to our behaviors, which I believe could be an interesting application in change management resistance. For Brown, an SFD is the first story we make up in our heads before we have all the information needed to be pragmatic about the real story. When we realize we have an SFD, she recommends asking ourselves other questions such as:

  • What do I know objectively?
  • What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?ADKAR Individual Change Commitment Progress
  • What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?

The concept of an SFD as applied by Brown aligns with how people handle change individually in the workplace. When we are in phase 1: preparing for change, collaborative conversations center around outcomes so we have a clear definition of what successful change will look like for organizations and individuals. During this time, we identify change qualities, assess the organization, integrate change into the project plan, select a change sponsorship model and more.  This post focuses Prosci’s individual change management model, ADKAR® which is an acronym based on the five building blocks for change that include:

  • AWARENESS of the need to change
  • DESIRE to participate in, and support the change
  • KNOWLEDGE of how to change (and what the change looks like)
  • ABILITY to implement the change on a day-to-day basis
  • REINFORCEMENT to keep the change in place

This model is linear and there are tools to assess where people fall in the commitment process. Our goal is to make sure end users have to tools to effectively adopt, embrace and reinforce the change so the behavior is sustained post go-live.

It is important to note that there will be groups and people who will move up the change commitment level at different strides, and in various ways. The right coaching plan roadmaps will be a great tool to guide sponsors and stakeholders so they are mentored differently to ensure message positioning is coming from the right channels and gets everyone excited. Increased adoption occurs when each group understands the current and future state, the business need for the change, how they will be impacted and what is in it for them to incorporate the new behavior(s), etc.

Please share stories, challenges or remedies you have used to deal with resistance to change.

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