MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
January 2016
Change Initiatives: It's Not Us, It's the Approach!
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Here's a fact: Most of us have NO difficulty accepting change.
Here's another fact: 80 percent of change initiatives fail first time out of the gate.
You may be wondering how these two facts are related. It turns out that difficulty in implementing change is not in accepting the idea. Most of us are good at thinking of how to change things or situations. We need only to look at gym membership statistics every January to see evidence of our desire for change!
The question, then, is why do so many change initiatives fail? The answer is that our reaction to change does not relate to our ability to let new ideas in. Getting our old ideas out prevents us from successfully implementing change.
That is, either you believe the new initiative is the best for you and/or your organization or you believe that your old way of doing the same thing is better. Simultaneously believing in both creates discord.
In other words, you can't have it both ways: Discord leads to failed change initiatives. Organizations with successful change initiatives remove the discord and it is likely that they incorporate the practice of biopsychology of change into their change projects.
By using biopsychology to implement change, individuals have an opportunity to re-wire their brain circuitry to not only accept the change, but to believe in the change. And when you truly believe in something, there's a high likelihood that you will give it your all to turn your belief into a reality!
It is only through the biopsychological approach that change initiatives are successful. Here is how it works (credit for steps below attributed to Sherry Campbell of Sierra Systems).
  1. Communicate the vision. Before change can occur, people need to be aware of potential changes. Working in small groups and with key individuals will go a long way to ensuring that the idea for the change initiative is firmly planted and people are primed to listen.
  2. Identify the area for change. Have individuals focus on the change and relate their thoughts, feelings and experiences around their existing circumstances. In doing so, individuals are able to "see" that their existing circumstance is in need of change. (If you believe your current situation is a problem, you are more apt to change it).
  3. Assessment and diagnosis. With existing circumstances described, have the individual talk about their conflicting behaviours, feelings, and thoughts that may get in the way of accepting the change. What coping patterns are they using in the existing circumstances?
  4. Plan the change. Once assessment and diagnosis is complete, ask the individual what behaviour they can do less of (e.g., coping behaviours), so that they have room for the new behaviour (new change initiative) in their brain map space. Discuss their feelings relating to letting go of the old behaviour (this is important to ensuring that the old behaviour will make room for the new!).
  5. Implement the change. Through pilot projects or visualization steps, implement the change incrementally until you reach your goal. Repetition of incremental steps may be necessary until you reach success.
  6. Monitor the change, successes and risks. Use coaching to help individuals stay on track with their new behaviour; accepting the change, and inserting it as the behaviour of choice in their brain map space.
Conducting regular check-ins after implementing change will help identify areas for further improvement. Early detection helps with early correction of failures and continuing reinforcement of new behaviours.
Change Considerations
In traditional organizations, employers expect employees to do what they are told (i.e., their jobs for which they are paid). Some leaders still believe that the way to motivate people to change is to tell them, or persuade them. This stems from an early age of having expectations imposed on us - first by our parents and teachers and later, by our employers.
But times have changed.
Organizations are now judged on their ability to meet corporate responsibility, fair trade, sustainability, and the triple bottom line (profit, people, and planet). And the judging is coming from all levels - customers, employees, and the public at large.
Because people have this new perspective on their world, imposing change on people will not work. Here's why:
  • Individual needs are not the same as those of the organization.
  • Individuals lead busy lives (even outside of work), so they are not able or willing to assimilate change just because the organization says so.
Given these new paradigms, organizations that implement successful change are those that are able to align their aims with the total life needs of their employees. That's why addressing WII-FM ("what's in it for me?") is so important. Leaders that know how to tap into each individual's WII-FM will not only build urgency and momentum for the change, but they will also make change stick.
To help you with your change initiative, consider these facts:
  1. People will never align with bad aims. Reassess and realign your organization's vision and mission to ensure that it meets corporate responsibility, aims for sustainability of the environment, favours fair trade, and is opposed to exploitation and executive greed, to name a few.
  2. People cannot multi-task or learn new skills without some job realignment. Several things need to be considered, not the least of which is an individual's capacity for change ("absorptive capacity"). Consulting with employees to learn how they think change will impact their jobs helps to see change from both perspectives.
  3. Ignoring the above facts is a sure guarantee of failed change initiatives.
Consider also that at least 75 percent of the organization's leadership must buy-in to the change if it is to be successful. What this means for the organization's change leader is that they must provide compelling evidence of the change to leaders first and staff second.
When at least 75 percent of the organization's leadership supports the change, selling the change to staff becomes much easier. Then the potential for change to stick becomes a reality, rather than a hope...and as one of my friends astutely noted: "Hope is never a strategy."
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
Change is difficult. No doubt about it. But not changing can be fatal! Most of us use "change" as a buzzword to show how "with it" we are, how "in tune" with society, with culture, and with our workplace. But I'll bet that most of those who tout change as a good thing have a poor track record of implementing change themselves. It's easy to say that we'll change to become better parents, better spouses, better friends or that we'll change the way we work, the way we relate to our work colleagues, and so on; but it's a completely separate topic of discussion to say how we will do that. When push comes to shove, successful change depends on our ability to first change our thinking about the situation before we can actually change the situation. Change starts with a resolute mind. IMHO.
"He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery."
- Harold Wilson

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