Why Any Change Must Be Human
How to ensure change in your organization is people-centric
The only point any business exists is to succeed, however that may be defined. Any actions we take within our organizations should be designed to contribute towards that success, because otherwise they have no reason and they’re a waste of time, energy and resources.
Because the world of work, driven by the relentless progression of technology, communication and shifting customer demand, is constantly shifting, we need to adapt our organizations in order to keep pace. That means changing them, constantly, as part of our daily operations. Our organizations are never finished, because the world never stops turning. The moment we stand still, is the moment we’re left behind.
With change (whatever that may be) as a necessary part of the evolution of a minimum viable organization that’s perpetually in beta testing mode, it’s a fundamental part of success. It’s alarming then, that various reports show that up to 70% of change programmes fail (McKinsey, 2008). Of these, 39% of the time it’s due to employee resistance and 33% due to management behavior. The message is clear, unless the people are along for the ride, any organizational changes carry a high risk of failure.
When you change anything in an organization, it has a knock-on impact on people and the problem with people is that we are all individuals. How a change impacts or affects us varies. We are variables in any change. We are creatures of habit that learn behaviors which are then resistant to change. How often do you park in the same space, take the same route to work, or prepare your drink in the same way? Even if we try to avoid forming habits, we all form some.
Evolution gave us a fight or flight mechanism. When we don’t understand or recognize something, we fight it, or run away. So, when things change at work and our long-held habits are challenged, our instinct is to go into battle or disappear. Neither scenario is great for any organization, or the people themselves.
To successfully change, it’s essential to bring your people along for the ride. If they recognize something, they will not resort to fight or flight, but take ownership, adapt and adopt it positively. Change for the right reason needs to be positively adopted and that requires on-boarding people with the idea. The great thing about people is we’re also naturally curious, so with the right approach, people can easily be engaged in any change, ensuring its success and securing the investment in it.
In my work, we looked at the most human way to connect people with change and created the 'Discover-Imagine-Create' approach, designed to positively connect people with change in a very human way through ownership, storytelling and taking them on the journey.
Five of the best tips we discovered for making any change human and thereby increasing the chances of success:
- Prepare fully by understanding every aspect of the change and its potential impact.
- Inform everyone by opening strong and responsive two-way lines of communication.
- Engage people by seeding and spreading ideas to create ownership.
- Reframe perspectives on behaviors, habits and impact through exploration and immersion.
- Inspire everyone with a sense of celebration, positivity and ongoing communication.
Creating positive adoption requires focus, dedication and a bit of creativity, but the benefits of engaging people in the changes that affect them are clear. Making change human is as essential a part of the change process as the change itself!
About the author: Andy Swann leads the development and delivery of people-focused transition management for organisations undergoing change at BDG Architecture + Design in the UK and is the author of The Human Workplace. He also is the founder of Simple Better Human, a creative organization development consultancy which specialises in allowing employees to thrive so that organisations can, too. He runs the All About People conference and speaks around the world on the benefits or taking a more human approach to organisational development.
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