This is what tends to happen: whether it’s a merger or introducing new values, new ways or working; whether it’s a restructure or moving premises certain reactions to change are constant.
There are change lovers and change haters.
I’m a change lover. I’ve changed countries, careers (more than once); moved from cities, to a town to the country. Change doesn’t throw me, even the whole uncertainty bit. As a matter of fact, one of the things my fellow Director Robin Chandler and I have said from the time we set up Impact Factory was that we were able to change on a dime.
If something isn’t working, change it. If something is working but could work even better, change it.
This is not true for everyone and because we run a lot of Change Management programmes we know just how hard it can be for a lot of people.
There are a few issues that we see time and time again:
Of all the kinds of changes there are, imposed change is usually the hardest to deal with. People don’t like not having a say in what happens to them. Even impossible seeming changes (like stopping smoking or changing habits of a life-time) feel within people’s control because they themselves decided to attempt the changes. Whereas imposed change takes the control right out of people’s hands.
The second issue around change is uncertainty. Most people don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. They like to be in the know and when the outcome of imposed change is unclear then anxiety can take hold and really affect how they feel, what they think, how they behave.
The third strand comes out of this anxiety and concern and that’s resistance. You start with imposed change, add a dose of uncertainty, swirl some emotions into the mix and for a lot of people their first response is to dig their heels in and oppose any changes suggested. This isn’t logical nor is it practical – what it is, is human nature.
People don’t necessarily want to be resistant to change; they don’t usually want to be deliberately obstructive. However, when people are in a state of worry and feel left out of the decision-making process, they can get defensive, sceptical, mistrustful and quite frankly, pissed off.
There are three crucial things that any organisation gearing up for change should put front and centre as part of their change programme:
involve people early on
let them know what’s going on and what they can expect
acknowledge the anxieties, fears and apprehension that people will be going through
We’ve seen time and again the ‘big people’ are so focused on getting the changes through that they get caught up in the logistics, practicalities and nuts and bolts that they kind of forget there are real human beings involved.
Maybe they don’t exactly forget, but they simply don’t give the whole people part of change the attention that they deserve. The irony is that if they did give people and what they were going through the attention they deserve then the changes – even the imposed ones – would go so much smoother.