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Why 'Hearts Before Minds' Should Be the New Change Management Directive

18th November 2015 | Warren Parry

It's Time to Turn the Commitment Curve on Its Head

Big Change, Best Path (9780749469429)The 'commitment curve' is one of the building blocks of many traditional change management strategies. According to the thinking, people must first become aware of the need to change and have an intellectual understanding of it before they can embrace or commit to the change. On the surface, this seems to make sense. After all, how can people commit to something they don’t fully understand? As such, companies often spend considerable resources on educating people about an upcoming change initiative – say, for example, an upcoming merger with another company – and employees are inundated with e-mails, memos, executive roadshows, and the like.

However, our research over the course of 15 years into 250 major change initiatives at more than 150 companies shows that in many cases such approaches can be a waste of time and effort. It’s true that for the lowest-performing groups, understanding of a change program must precede commitment, but that sequence is actually reversed for high performers, particularly in the early stages of an initiative. For high-performing groups, trust in leadership is so high that people are essentially willing to get on the bus even before they know where it’s headed. In essence, people first commit emotionally and are happy to find out where they are going as they move along.

Consequently, organizations with trusted leaders can begin implementing and accelerating a change program without first having to educate employees about the specific details. Getting this right up front has important implications for enabling the workforce of the future to embrace change, and can be the difference between failure and success with quantifiable benefits. In other words, the saying “hearts before minds” (and not “minds before hearts”) should be the management directive for organizations when trust in leadership is high.

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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