Don’t we all wish to have this? A way to approach change in organisations that guarantees success? We know better.
However, when I was musing about the many changes I have been part of in many organisations, and sometimes was responsible for, I see some common facts that always apply. So lets create this as a mathematical formula:
Cs Successful Change is accomplished when people have integrated the change into their comfort zones, which is created by:
- Vs – Shared Vision: without a clear shared vision, efforts to change are not channelled, aligned, nor supporting each other.
- Us – Sense of Urgency: what people need to feel inside, igniting the will and energy to change.
- Lt – Transition Leadership: Leaders in the organisation are capable of guiding their team and team member’s transition process
- Cc – Change Capacity: the capacity to change needs to be available, developed and maintained.
- Le – Learning from Experience: People need to be engaged as quickly as possible: create first actions that they can be part of. People believe and learn from what they experience.
Don’t get mislead by the formula, it’s just a model – an enormous simplification of the reality. Change is a complex process. An organisation is complex, because it is made up of people. An organisation behaves like an organism. People are complex beings and every individual is unique.
How wonderful! Therefore, the diversity of organisations has to be approached as pure strength. The key is how people work together, support each other, learn from each other! This is also why leadership is so crucial. But lets first look into change and transition a bit more.
Change is just an event that happens. Once it has taken place, it’s over. If we move house, the change has happened when we handover the key of our old housed we step through the door of our new house. We have moved. However, the change requires careful planning and execution.
When do we start to call our new house home? This will take a while and we need to actively create our new place, decorate it, get used to the size and shape of the rooms, e.g. finding your way off the stairs in the dark will take a while. The human and psychological process of adjusting to change is called transition (William Bridges). Once we have let go of our old home, when we have made a transition and in the end accepted our new home psychologically, we have made the transition. We feel comfortable (again), we feel at home in our new house. Does this also apply to change in organisations?
In organisations, we (hopefully) prefer to guide people through change – aiming to support their transition. Unfortunately, 75% of all change programs fail because of the lacking transition management capabilities – the people side of change (McKinsey). Transition and change are complex processes, with every person being a unique personality in this processes. Therefore we need to add another component to our model of change, which represents the psychological process.
One of the most used models has been created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, although it originally was known (and still is) as the 5-phase grieve model: denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance. It was William Bridges who brought this grieve-model into his approach of transition: endings-transitions-new beginnings. When we include this altogether, we get this model:
The key leadership actions to ensure people are able to go through the change curve are: understand and communicate a clear vision, have empathy for the feelings people have, provide guidance to create psychological safety to allow acceptance, challenge when actions can be taken, help reflect on outcomes so that learning takes place and ensure people remain engaged on new behaviour so they gradually integrate the new behaviour into their comfort zone – a new habit has been created.
Fundamentally, this is how we meet people where they are and – at the same time – allow them to meet us where we are. Leaders are part of the change and are in transition as well. Understanding this change process is of great help to leaders, team members, teams and the organisation.
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