How to successfully manage organizational change?
The three keys to successful change management are:
- A clear change story
- Engagement from leaders
- Change enablement
To engage in change, people need to understand why it is happening and to care enough about it to make the necessary changes in how they work. There needs to be a compelling vision or story of change – so that people understand and buy into why it is needed, and why now. They also need to understand what it means for them – what they might need to do differently – and to be motivated and see the opportunities this presents. People are also more likely to engage with and adopt changes when they are involved in shaping it and feel empowered during the process. Finally, celebrating progress and wins along the way will bring much needed energy during large-scale transformational change.
For successful change, leaders need to understand their primary role is to influence employee mindsets and behaviors and that this requires providing support to the employees. Leaders must role model the desired changes to demonstrate their buy-in to new ways of working.
Organizations in transformation need to ensure that people can make the required changes – that they have the right resources, systems, and support to work in new ways. Change enablement is an effective way to reinforce the change story and win engagement.
Finally, change needs to be reinforced through formal and informal means – through performance metrics, processes, and ways of working, and also by how senior leaders behave and role model the desired changes (fundamentals described by McKinsey’s four building blocks of change).
Whilst essential, these components are not sufficient because successful change requires organizations to manage the emotions of change.
Psychologically speaking, our brains seek predictability which means, whilst we may understand the rationale for change and accept it cognitively, emotional change is often experienced as ‘painful’ or a threat. If left unattended, this can derail even the best-planned changed efforts. All change requires some kind of loss and a challenge to our fundamental psychological needs of status, certainty, autonomy, relationships, and sense of fairness. Leadership neuroscientist David Rock calls this the SCARF model. By recognizing the emotions associated with change, leaders and change agents can support people to better understand their responses, build coping strategies and resilience, and move more quickly towards accepting new ways of working.