Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to Get Ahead of the Change Curve

Change is the only constant, but even change itself has been expedited.

The change curve is a model of the states that people who are to change will go through because going through the downs of the change curve has a negative impact on productivity, leadership is required to guide people through the different phases in order to flatten the curve and to minimize the impact on productivity. 

1. Understanding the Curve

The curve is applicable to everyone even those who planned and conceived the vision. The real problem seems to understand the curve and how it relates to change. The curve is ready to be the steps one goes through during change when in actuality they are the steps that come before change can take place. 

Why do change initiatives often fail? You can dig through the causes via asking: "Is the change curve a useful construct?"; “Do humans easily accept change?”; “Do humans follow a predictable pattern of responses?”., etc. Reasons for resisting could be found on three levels:
a) Individual: Fear, apathy & indifference, loss of control, personal vulnerability.
b) Group: Functional silo, comfort with gained existing stage, wrong groupthink (past success will come to future success)
c) Organization. Extended success resulted in organizational inertia, comfort with existing stage, corporate cultures that do not support any changes

More often than not, change curve seems to be a tempting "solution" on how to explain the change process to the people concerned. Failure is not due to the tools of change but the application and timing of the implementation of those tools.

2. Multi-Stepped Process to get Ahead of Change Curves 

The goal of change and improvement should look beyond immediate problem resolution. The focus should include actions designed to sustain performance improvement and anchor change as a new opportunity. It's getting into action in creative, positive, productive ways that educate, support and celebrate every emotional step of the change curve and collective transformation journey.

It is not as easy to provide a combination approach (both sense of urgency and Change Curve). The more complex the change, the more complex the solution. This often means customized approaches that may apply differently to each individual impacted, and it involves process and people with following formula:
Process = Goal +Management + Procedures + Training + Metrics
People = Leadership + Vision +Development + Innovation + Motivation

Improvement is more than discovering an elegant solution: It is a multi-stepped process that includes both problem resolution and solution implementation. All stages must be handled with attention and proficiency to ensure success. However, energy usually gets focused on problem-solving, and realization becomes a rush where thoughtfulness about people and processes is a casualty of time.
1)     Curve awareness->motivation->knowledge->capability->anchor
2)     What you do is more important vision->stakeholder ID and analysis->appoint champions-> etc., 
3)     HOW you do is most important. Open and honest dialogue is the key, people just want the truth.

3. Focus on People 

What underpins the change process and methodology is the genuine valuing of people. When people feel valued they contribute hugely and DO NOT seek financial reward as a consequence, in fact, it is often frowned upon to do so.

Knowing the psychological process is just a necessary element that a change leader must master. It is worth mentioning that this knowledge is part of understanding human behaviors. Studies in neuroscience show that people do not resist change; they resist what they consider a threat to their current state. Emotions are very important as change is a personal thing.

Before telling everyone what is going to change, it might be prudent to advise them on what is going to stay the same. In terms of cultural change, a lot of people resist as it takes them outside their comfort zone which generally gives a negative feeling. The answer would be to promote the positives to try to capture those on the periphery. People resist change because "they don’t get it, they don’t like it, or they don’t like the person creating it.” Especially in organizations where culture and values are emphasized, letting people know that these are constants makes implementing change welcome, not fearful

It isn’t what you do, but the way that you do it…that matters. There are three pieces to do with people: who is in the room? How do you communicate? Do you have an intentional culture? When dealing with people, whilst you may end up giving them the same thing, the process you go through MUST be empathetic and as such will be subtly different for each one. If you try to force them to a one size fits all (formulaic approach) you will upset many EVEN if you ultimately deliver what they need. Each person has their own change curve and as a change agent, you learn that you have to use the line managers to sponsor and reinforce the change. Being more in sync with people, which in the end, does not prevent change managers from having a process for securing and accelerating the implementation of the change effort.

Change Management is a journey, not just a one-time project, riding ahead of the change curve takes strategy and methodology, people are the weakest link, also the best reason for any changes, so make people as your CORE focal point.


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