Change has been endemic in business for decades. Yet identifying, initiating and implementing it successfully has never been straightforward and results almost invariably fall short of expectations. All too often this failure is attributed to employees’ reluctance to change and thus labelled “change resistance.” This is a phenomenon that is perhaps more easily understood when you consider the non-business changes we are encountering now.
The forces for change are perhaps more visible, more powerful and more urgent than they have ever been before – not least in political, social and environmental arenas. Yet at the same time, entrenched thinking makes rational discussion and debate difficult and real progress practically impossible in the face of increased polarisation. You can very easily categorise this as “change resistance.” But, you create a problem when you do so.
This is because “change resistance” is a convenient label that frames your thinking and so sabotages your efforts. I was alerted to this by a LinkedIn article by Agustin Del Vento, in which he writes, "No one is intrinsically resistant and aversion to change is not an immutable and inherited characteristic defining someone’s personality." If nothing else, our successful evolution as a species proves that we have an innate predisposition to and capacity for change. If we didn’t, we would still be immersed in the primordial swamp. The argument that change resistance is the result of poor interaction therefore seems eminently reasonable.
Del Vento offers some simple solutions, but an article entitled Nine Rules for Leading a Constructive Conversation by Jim Ware at Future of Work, offers arguably better remedies. It focuses on conversations rather than change, but is relevant because meaningful conversations are an essential element of good communication, which is in turn a vital ingredient of effective interaction. So, substitute “conversation” with “change” and you can apply these rules to any change you are proposing.
Just as you have to remember that, as a leader, you set the tone of the conversation but cannot dictate its text, so you shape the change but not the detail. Change is ultimately a human phenomenon. It takes place at the personal level when the individual is ready to change: when they see the benefits of the change or the consequences of not changing. Effective leadership ensures that people reach that stage and are able to follow through on that realisation. Thus effective change demands effective leadership based on the understanding that every individual matters.
If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.