Change is not quick enough
How many times did I hear top management telling me that change was not taking place at the right pace, that change was not fast enough and needed to be accelerated, that there was resistance to change. Change management protocols have been designed and implemented in many occurrences with or without the expected success. Change is usually top down driven. We all know the standard drill by now. A CEO senses (or is told there is) an urgent need for the organization to change, he thinks about it for a while (weighing the odds) and makes a decision, sets the direction, establishes a plan and shapes some key elements of communication for the different audiences. He then delivers a lot of (meant to be) convincing messages, builds a small coalition with (those in) his direct reports he was able to convince and together they push the first changes to show the rightfulness of the transformation engaged. Some pressure is put in the system, a lot of hard work, some lubricant to help change the current procedures and organization and normally the expected juice comes out of the machinery. But …. Change is hard and most of the time fails. It requires not only management (planning, controlling…) but also leadership (motivation and inspiration…)
Change is also about “Respect”
Leadership reduces the risk of resistance to change and with leadership comes a new word “respect”. Respect like “showing regard and consideration” for the people impacted by the change. How can we show respect in a change process? The most obvious answer seems to take the time to explain the need for change but not only. Persuasion is one way but we also need to appeal to emotions and listen (not only hear) to objections and fears that people will express in front of the proposed change. It means that the change project needs to include ways for people to express their concerns and an obligation for the leadership to show empathy and acknowledge them and answer them in the most appropriate manner. Respect is also – and this is maybe the biggest difficulty for a leader who wants the change to happen – about letting go. Incorporating change proposals from the people involved in a bottom-up approach and accepting a distributed and shared leadership without being afraid of the emerging contribution forces generated in the process. It will be useful for the future. It will shape a culture of autonomy and free contribution in the organization (a culture being a common way for a group of people to do things). In parallel with the collective change process in action, respect is also about taking care of the way the change resonates in each of the participants.
Change and transition
Change is event driven, it is external to individuals and focused on results. Transition is experience driven, it’s psychological and internal to each individual. Transitioning in a change is an individual experience that cannot be considered as common to all the individuals involved. Each one of the members of a changing organization is impacted differently from the others by the change. Showing respect is also about providing the necessary time to people to adjust to the change and accepting that this internal evolution is slow and progressive. Showing respect is for the leader to accept that individual adaptation to the change progresses at different speed in the group and to encourage mutual assistance among the team to accelerate the transitioning.
Successful change becomes then a collective journey led by the top management, owned collectively by the members of the entire organization, and carried away with true respect for each person.