Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Three Levels of Change Curves

If you make change part of your routine, then change becomes easier to deal with.

Either at the individual or organizational level, change is a differentiated capability to thrive in the digital era. Change is not always going smoothly, there are bumps and curves on the way. The change curve is a model of the states that people who are to change will go through, the curve is applicable to everyone even those who planned and conceived the vision. 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. The real problem seems to understand the curve and how it relates to change because going through the downs of the change curve has a negative impact on productivity. Here are three levels of change curves, as well as how to rise above them to improve the effectiveness of Change Management.

Individual level: The smooth change happens through the efforts of people who care and are willing to leap into a new dimension of possibilities. There are both psychological curves and knowledge/methodological curves for changes. Emotions are very important as change is a personal thing.  Studies in neuroscience show that people do not resist change; they resist what they consider a threat to their current state with emotions such as, fears,  apathy & indifference, loss of control, personal vulnerability. Knowing the psychological process is just a necessary element that a change leader must master. 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. 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), even you change the behavior, but change cannot sustain because the mindset hasn’t been changed yet. Imagination, knowledge building and lessons-learned are also important for well preparing the change journey. At the Individual level, human beings are not only 'reasonable' but they have imagination: All happens through imagination and change is living, there cannot be any change without imagination.

Group/Function level: Change is unavoidable. There is often no shortcut for change. It should be made incrementally. From business change management perspective, the roadblocks to change include, but not limited to lack of direction, internal politics, current culture/blame, not aligned systems/processes, too much hierarchy or centralization, functional silo, comfort with gained existing stage, wrong groupthink (past success will come to future success). Silos are inevitable in every structured organization, bounded groups or insular tribes are evidence of silos, and silos are reservoirs for homogeneous thinking, limiting the organization's creativity and innovation. From change leadership lens, it is the responsibility of the leaders to initiate his or her team to break the silos to realize the common goals or strategy which are far more important than the personal and departmental goals. By sharing the same vision, trusting that adjacent and support departments are all capable of completing their portion of the goal, and being able to coordinate and communicate effectively across departments, you can attempt to increase the performance of those members within each silo for the overall goal. Once a breakdown of trust or communication occurs, you begin to see each silo become more decentralized and self-focused. When leaders of an organization place an emphasis on building a culture of cross-functional collaboration, the opportunity for silos to work against the alignment of all departments towards the goals and objectives of the organization is diminished. In practice, deliver a change management training to a large group of people, increases the group's ability to get through the denial and resistance phases easier. Take the time to communicate the expected outcome with consideration of the "right" way allows the team to have room to make success progressive and change sustainable.

Organizational level: It would be helpful to know that any change within an organization is a process always involving trust and relationships; not a one-and-done chore. At the organizational level, creativity is incredibly useful, both in terms of making an impact on change management communications and tactics. Change curves exist because these days it is pretty tough to get attention as there is so much going on, change can no longer just a one-time initiative or spontaneous effort, it should be the ongoing business capability with both hardcore elements and the soft touches such as communication. However, building trust often gets overlooked and therefore minimized as insignificant; without trust, there is no respect; and without trust and respect in an organization, change efforts become like a rocking chair stays in motion but gets nowhere. When change management is just a set of best practices without creativity embedded in it, the staff becomes like nails and the leadership like the hammer forcing staff into submission of change.  If there is a high level of trust within the upper rankings of management, this will be conveyed through their actions and directions to those within their own work unit. Having leaders of respective functions to interact in a structured setting on a consist basis goes a long way towards eliminating the silo mentality. If all of the upper-level management is engaged and focused on the same institutional goal and plan, they will be able to move forward in the same direction.  All departments have to have the stake in it. Their buy-ins should be gained up front to mitigate resistance.

In today's work environment, it takes a lot of energy to break old habits and outdated thought processes, but change is happening at a more rapid pace. If you make change part of your routine, then change becomes easier to deal with. Change Management is a journey, not just a one-time project, riding ahead of the change curve takes both strategy and methodology. A changeable organization is to creating organizations where change is the norm and happens the whole time thereby delivering faster and increasing market share.


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