Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Gains and Pains in Change Management

Change is never for its sake, it is about tolerating growth pains, removing unnecessary pains, and solving problems for the long term gains.

Change is inevitable, and the speed of change is increasing. For individuals or organizations at the lower level of change maturity, change is a reactive action and a reluctant activity. They get stuck in the “comfort zone” for so long, dislike changes. But change is the only way to move forward. In fact, there are both gains and pains in Change Management, so how to identify, understand, and manage changes smoothly?


Understand the big WHY about change to clarify growth pains which are perhaps necessary, but also avoid unnecessary pains: Many organizations focus so heavily on the "doing" (the "how"), they lose the sight of the "purpose," the "WHY" part of changes. It is the key to present the WHY first. Primarily, it provides a way to inject enthusiasm, which is infectious and spurs the concept forward. Clarify the big WHY about change is to convey the vision about the change, highlight the potential gains via changes, and emphasize on the cause-effect - What could be happening (more pains) without changes. Because change cannot be completely manipulated from top-down, many static mindsets scattered at all level of the organization perhaps consciously or subconsciously set roadblocks for changes. Hence, it is important to start changes from the mindset level in order to gain in-depth understanding about the big WHY, bridge any cognitive gaps, further drive change attitude and sustain change behaviors. "Why" should be reaffirmed at each step in the "How." Once people agree with the “WHY” part of the reasoning, they can develop their own level or means of participating, embed creativity in the change scenario, maybe even offer what you didn't think to ask for, expanding the full meaning of the CHANGE concept itself, thereby re-injecting further excitement in their being part of it. People only like the comfort zone if they have been given no reason to consider going someplace better or don't even know there is a "new and improved" zone they could go to. Hence, the big WHY change conversation can clarify the gains and pains accordingly.


Understand the psychology behind the change to manage emotion life cycle and discourage negative vibes which perhaps cause unnecessary pains: What is more interesting about change psychology is what drives people's perspective. Those lack of vision are either incentivized to focus only on the short-term gain; limited by their narrow lens and dimmed outlook, inexperienced outside of the small domain in which they operate; too focused on their own comfort zone for self-preservation; or have no energy or desire left to think longer term. Even worst, when the negative vibes surrounding in your organizations, talented employees become the victims of suffering those unnecessary pains, the business reputation gets damaged via lower morale, low employee satisfaction, and mediocre performance. When people experience a state of anxiety or uncertainty, they tend to drift back to the comfort zone with “small thinking” filled with negative emotions. When that anxiety is removed and they experience more certainty, they have the courage to think more expansively. There is a distinct relationship between a person's emotional state and small or expansive thinking:  If change is going to make them feel more comfortable, they accept it. If not, they resist. The bottom line, people love comfort zone and dislike anything that will take them away from that zone. Hence, recognize your change champions and empower your change agents, in order to build the culture of CHANGE- the fundamental step for making advancement and accelerating innovation.


The good change leaders focus on solutions to the painful problems, not on blame or finger-pointing: What is (and has been) missing from the organizations is perhaps a palpable sense of long-term vision, problem-solving culture, and people-centricity. Change is never for its sake, it is about tolerating grow pains, removing unnecessary pains, and solving problems for the long term gains. So as far as who is to blame, per se, anyone who contributes to the decline of an organization can own some fault it in its demise. But to keep the positive tone and get change going smoothly, change leaders should focus on solving problems, not for finger pointing, and reduce unnecessary pains. Build a culture of accountability which is the key to building strong teams. When the leader isn't holding others accountable, the team can become fragmented, unappreciated and quickly dysfunctional. Further, put the emphasis on learning instead of retribution. Enhance opportunities for self-expression and personal autonomy, encourage the culture of authenticity, and build the trust-based and professional work environments for catalyzing changes and improving business maturity.

"Change management" is the overarching umbrella, that encompasses planning, communications, discovery of concerns / objections / potential points of failure, addressing fears and resistance, developing a shared vision, communicating valid and compelling reasons for cooperation, recognizing sacrifice and incremental success, measuring outcomes in a shared and mutually understood and agreed upon fashion. Change is also a journey full of uncertainty. So manage the gain and pain effectively, and build change as an ongoing capability.

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