Engaging People in Change
The most critical success factor in creating successful change is the engagement of the stakeholders in the change. So who are these stakeholders? The answer is anyone who is actively involved in the change or impacted by the change.
Change will impact every individual and groups of individuals in different ways , so a “one size fits all” approach to engaging the individuals in the change will not optimise outcomes and lead to an efficient and effective change.
What do we mean by engagement in change?
Engagement fundamentally means commitment to the change and a willingness to take whatever actions are required for the role an individual holds in and organisation.
Ideally we want every stakeholder to be committed to change, and certainly the significant majority in advance of initiation phase.
How do individuals and groups react to change?
The leaders of organisations are usually the initiators of change, they are the people who have “Dissatisfaction with the current situation” and have identified the need for change. There is usually a small group who are pushing for the change. The majority are probably comfortable with the status –quo. So what happens at an individual level when change is suggested?
There are Four key phases of transition (Kubler-Ross) that occur normally these are sequential and individuals and groups proceed at different paces through each phase:
Denial:- This is the initial phase “There is no necessity to change”, “They are wrong everything is OK”, “This does not affect me” are the likely responses. Basically the individuals and groups are in their comfort zone and happy with the status quo. Fear of change often underpins the response and behaviours, because change can bring uncertainty and many individuals and groups do not like uncertainty.
Resistance:- “Over my/our dead body will that happen here”, “They can do what they want but I/we am/are not changing (Need to change)”. Because fundamental individual and organisation behavioural psychology is at play the natural response is to resist change by either doing nothing, by being very vocal about “why we don’t need to change” or by attempting in some cases to disrupt the change.
Exploration:- The third phase occurs as a result of good change management practice or as a result of “Things are moving ahead and I/we might get left behind”, “Maybe there is something in this”. Individuals and groups start to explore and understand and perhaps look for ways that will allow them support the change that do not make them look like they have completed a U-turn. They are trying to understand and justify why they should engage in the change.
Commitment:- This is the final phase where individuals and groups accept that the status quo (current situation) is unsatisfactory and there is a need to change and they are willing to make and support that change.
A good change leader and facilitator will be able to observe through behaviours and actions which stage and individual and group are functioning at and take the appropriate interventions to move them through the transition process.
It is essential that change leaders and facilitators understand that people and groups will move at different paces, also that regression can occur in the process if not managed effectively.
An effective change plan will have people, processes, tools and supports in place to take the individuals, groups and organisations through the transition phases as fast as possible.
In our next paper and blog we will look at the components of an effective change Process.