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Do Employees Have to Experience Denial and Anger as Part of the Change Process?

18th November 2015 | Warren Parry

Organizations Can Execute Change Smoothly without any Hiccup in Performance or Downturn in Employee Morale

Big Change, Best Path (9780749469429)Many traditional approaches to organizational change assume that, in the beginning of an initiative, people’s inertia and resistance need to be overcome, and that’s why performance will typically dip before rising. In addition, the conventional wisdom is that people must go through the 'valley of despair' as a normal part of the change process.

Over the past 15 years, we have studied 250 major change initiatives: restructurings, acquisitions, technology implementations, cost reductions, downsizings, new product entries, and so on. These change programs took place at more than 150 organizations, including dozens of Fortune Global 500 corporations, spanning 50 industries and 25 countries. Altogether, we have now collected data from more than 850,000 employees, from front-line staffers through corporate executives.

For high-performing groups, we found that business performance — specifically, cost management, customer service levels, and effectiveness — rises continuously from the start of a change initiative to its end. There is no initial performance dip. We found that people do not necessarily have to experience negative feelings of denial and anger as part of the change process. In fact, we found that in high-performing groups, positive feelings and emotions such as passion and drive remained high throughout all stages of the change program. The lesson is clear for leaders and the workforce of the future: when an organization has built strong capabilities prior to a change program being implemented, it can execute that initiative smoothly without any hiccup in performance or downturn in employee morale or mood. 

About the author: Warren Parry, Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization, helps global clients navigate complex organizational change. Previously, as the founder and CEO of ChangeTrack Research, Warren pioneered the development of Change Tracking, a predictive analytics system based on more than 15 years of research which helps organizations navigate and manage large-scale organization change. Change Tracking is used by more than 150 organizations in 50 different industries and 25 countries. With more than 20 years of experience, Warren has lodged 16 patents, has published in international journals and speaks regularly at industry conferences. He is based in Sydney, Australia.

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