Faster, faster, faster! Our lives are moving at an ever-increasing pace and we feel this especially in the workplace. We have access to increasing amounts of information, transportation and communication that take us far and wide. This generates new ideas and other ways of doing what we do. We can try to absorb it and most often it gets to be too much. So we shut down and ignore it.
If we do not adjust, if we do not keep up, then we get left behind and become obsolete. At least this is the fear we hold hand in hand with the fear of the unknown.
How can we address the fact that change does and will continue to happen? How do we recognize our choices and how we deal with it?
Change can happen in three ways:
- Episodic Change, which is direct, immediate, short term and usually a superficial type of change.
- Developmental Change, which takes time to unfold, goes to greater depths and has a longer-term impact.
- Radical Change, which is the most dramatic of the three, is a big shift in perspective and direction, and has both short- and long-term impact.
Any one of these three types of change can evoke emotional reactions. Typically, we feel fear because we are threatened about the change and what it means to us. Our knee jerk reaction is to want to maintain a feeling of security. In the workplace this can mean job security. We take action based upon the need to protect what we have from what we do not know. So we can,
- Deny the change is coming or is necessary (“hunh, what change?”)
- Be skeptical of the change and criticize it (“it will never work!”)
- Gather others into a bigger force against the change (oh, how misery loves company!)
- Or try to be proactive and get ahead of the change (go change!)
Which of these steps will be productive and helpful?
A penguin colony in Antarctica is panicked because their iceberg is melting. Some ignore it, some panic and others take action. In the book, Our Iceberg is Melting, Kotter shows different reactions to change using a fable that mimics real life. He comes up with an 8-step process to address change:
Set the Stage
1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Put together the guiding team
Decide What To Do
3. Develop the change vision and strategy
Make it Happen
4. Communicate for understanding and buy-in
5. Empower others to act
6. Produce short-term wins
7. Don’t let up
Make it Stick
8. Create a new culture
Here are some practical ways in which we at FYI can guide the change process:
- Gain commitment from the leadership of the organization for the change and participatory process because without it, the efforts will fall flat.
- Identify the Change Champion(s) who will be the point of contact and shepherd the change from within the organization?
- Conduct interviews, surveys and focus groups to hear from all levels of the organizational system so that all voices have the opportunity to be heard.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- Build on strengths of the organization and the workforce because when we focus on problems all our energy goes to wallowing in problems and that is an energy drain.
- Implement small and meaningful wins so members of the organization take it seriously and see their voices reflected in the change.
- Be patient because this takes time.
- Build capacity for the new ways of working.
Change is a process that happens over a period of time and is not a one time event. In order for the change to “stick” people need time to adjust and create new habits. There should be ongoing monitoring and evaluation. To ensure the organization and all stakeholders involved are on the path they intended and can make adjustments as needed. The best parts are to celebrate the successes, no matter how small!
Kotter, J. & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions. New York: St. Martin’s Press.