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Dealing with change

Recently I got an invitation from a State organisation to train their senior management on “Mindset for Positive Change.” This entity has been struggling with rolling out their recently introduced innovation. According to the executives, the most resistance to change was coming from their internal senior managers. It was therefore becoming extremely difficult for the organisation to get acceptance of the change by the external publics. It is imperative for any organisation to get a buy in for any change from its internal publics before they sell it to the external publics. It could be a service, a product or any new idea, the internal publics are the first port of call in any change endeavour.

Understanding change

There are many situations that may trigger change in an organisation. The triggers for change can be external (market upheaval, new technologies, acquisitions, more aggressive competition) or internal (spin-offs, mergers, layoffs, cost reduction, new set of values, reengineering processes). But like I pointed out in my last instalment, at the heart of any organisation’s change prospects is the human factor. The “people” are the internal aspects that need to be set in motion. The company’s “internal publics” is a key component which will define the success or failure of any organisational change.

Mindset for change

Dynamic and disruptive change involves dislocation, conflict, confusion, uncertainty. New ways are nearly always received with coolness, even mockery or hostility. Those with vested interests fight the change. These shifts demand such a different view of things that established leaders are often the last to be won over, if at all.  It goes without saying that change is also a perception; we may see it as positive or negative, as too fast, slow or about right. We perceive it as great, small, simple, and complex or in between. It is subjective. One thing is certain however, change is here to stay and cannot be wished away. The power to change your mindset will change your life.

Triggers for change

There are many situations that may trigger change in an organisation. The triggers for change can be external (market upheaval, new technologies, acquisitions, more aggressive competition) or internal (spin-offs, mergers, layoffs, cost reduction, new set of values, reengineering processes). But like I pointed out in my last instalment, at the heart of any organisation’s change prospects is the human factor. The “people” are the internal aspects that need to be set in motion. The company’s “internal publics” is a key component which will define the success or failure of any organizational change.

Some facts about change

Letters that once took weeks to travel by sea mail, now take only seconds by e-mail. Yet this leads to the “future shock” syndrome or our sometimes feeling overwhelmed by, and even drowned in information. Managing change to some extent is the changing of information into knowledge. It is the digesting of only what we need, turning it into nutritious knowledge. Knowledge that is useful, value added and applied. This process has become known as Knowledge Management (KM). The leading of change must be based on sound KM. Nobody can force change on anyone else. It has to be experienced. Unless we invent ways where paradigm shifts can be experienced by a critical mass, then change will be a myth.

Change at the individual level

All social systems, such as work organisations, comprise individual employees as the basic building blocks. Change can be from bottom up, which starts with each of us, as an individual. Here, our cerebral or cognitive self operates at a knowledge or awareness level, knowing what change is needed and why. We need to be aware of the nature, causes and outcomes of change. Knowing the benefits of change may be critical. Change can be from top down also. Another level – still individual – is in our emotional self, and in the limbic system. Here, our attitudes, values, motives and drives come into play. How strongly we believe and feel about the changes is fundamental to whether we are willing to change. This level is more complex and difficult when it comes to change. The leader needs to gain commitment to, or ownership of, the need to change. Typically, high involvement and participation help.

The group or team level

As we move towards the next level, we would appreciate that most employees work as members of a work group or in a team. Peer pressure may be effective where the majority is in favour of change, but this can depend upon the degree of resolve among the group minority. Even if the minority feel strongly, and resolutely opposed, or have a strong personality, peer pressure may not work. In fact, sometimes such pressure produces a more stubborn resistance. The leader must understand their team members’ motivations, values and attitudes towards change.

The organisational level

Organisations comprise teams and individuals. A social system by itself only changes when the majority of its stakeholders support the change. Leading team change is only one step. Aligning all the teams is another step. Organisational values and vision can be applied, as well as the policies, systems or structures, to support the change needed. Aligning top down, with bottom up initiatives is ideal. A holistic or whole brained approach is likely to be more effective in achieving total organisational change, although it may be far more difficult and take longer.

Proactive or reactive

There are different reactions to change. Some people are more “proactive”, willing to change and even initiate change; others may be more reactive and merely waiting for or resisting change.  We need to integrate both the cerebral and limbic reactions to bring about individual behavioural change. Teams may comprise a diverse mix of individuals, some wanting change and falling into the positive and “proactive’ type. Others may be indifferent towards or even opposed to change and more the “reactive” type.

Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant and founder of Leadership Institute of Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw/ or info@lird.co.zw, Facebook: @lirdzim and Mobile/WhatsApp: +263 719 466 925..

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