Driving organizational change – Part II

In a previous blog post, I wrote about resistance to change and I mentioned 4 points to be considered when you are in the process of changing (which is a never-ending process)

Let’s recap the points I mentioned:

  1. Authority and coercive power cannot create a real change in people’s behavior.
  2. People fear change. They just do.
  3. We cannot change other people.
  4. You cannot persuade someone by winning an argument.

What I didn’t write about is how to deal with these points, which is what I am about to do now:

Authority and coercive power cannot create a real change in people’s behavior.

My advice here would be simple: Stop using them!
Instead of trying to use regulations and procedure that forces teams and employees to comply with the change you are seeking, share the goals of the change.
What are we trying to achieve. Are we trying to increase the effectiveness of the teams? Are we trying to reduce the fault rate in our product? Perhaps we are trying to become more agile?
Let the teams own these goals and take responsibility over them, share the data you have and the possible benefits. Even more than that, try to get the teams to define the goals, ask them where do they see a place for improvement, and how can we achieve it.

People fear change. They just do.

There is not much you can actively do to change that, so you are left with the option to be very aware of it, reduce the amount of changes you do simultaneously, make small incremental changes and try to refrain from big bang organizational changes.

Listen to what is bothering them with the change, try to make the necessary adjustments to the change initiative.
The change is not about you. It is about them. If you have been discussing this change for a while now and you are ready to execute it, it doesn’t mean that they are ready. Since you have been planning this for a while, you have already gone through the mental process of accepting this change. They did not.
Give them the time and space to digest these new ideas and be patient to the point when they are mentally ready to take on this new challenge.
Additionally, try to avoid change in times of pressure, for example, at the end of a big release, or in the middle of a high priority project.

We cannot change other people.

This is also something that we cannot do much about, I also hope you are modest enough not to want to change other people, after all this is only the workplace, we cannot hire people for what they are (and what they are not) and then expect them to change just because we want them to.
We can expect changes in behavior, in the way things are done.
And this leads to another topic that I will not cover now regarding who do you hire and how…

Still, giving the right work environment, people will always surprise you with their abilities and achievements, in healthy environments people that you considered irresponsible will become superstars, people that you find aggressive will behave in a cooperative way. They will.

You cannot persuade someone by winning an argument.

So… Stop arguing. Stop trying to make this about you and your change, get them aboard, give them the data and information in a way they can comprehend it. Visualize it, make it accessible to them, and most importantly, do not hide it. I often hear the following from managers “This is too much information for them to handle, it will only confuse them”. Give me a break. Are they 3 year old children? They can cope with the information, and if not they will tell you about it (if you listen), your employees are smart unique individuals, so start treating them like that.

Ask smart questions and let them convince themselves or even maybe come up with a better alternative than you have thought about.
If you are a change agent, listen, understand what they have on their minds and then re-read the previous points and the previous blog post.

Hope you find this advice helpful.
May the force be with you.

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