8 Guiding Principles to Develop Individual Change Capability

8 Guiding Principles to Develop Individual Change Capability
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When to Develop Individual Change Capability
Organizations frequently wait too long before they tell their employees about proposed changes; so most people find out through the grapevine. Leaders often feel that if they tell people too soon they will lose productivity and divert attention from the task at hand. That is a mistake.

First, people are already diverted by the uncertainty about what will happen. Second, those affected by change need time to prepare themselves for the new ways and support to make it happen.  Third, by not actively engaging key stakeholders in the organization leaders fail to surface the organizations capability to change.

While the specific nature of some organizational changes may not yet be clear, the general direction and major assumptions are often known.  The sooner people begin to prepare, the more ready they will be to change how they think, work, and behave.

Change Demands New Skills Mindsets and Ways of Seeing Work
Employees need more than commitment to succeed at change.  They need help to understand the new expectations and how to assess their own ability and desire to work in new ways.  Reaction to change is often determined by fear of the unknown, lack of preparation for change, and inadequate skills for managing change.  For most, dealing with change is not a natural skill.

Current ways of thinking and working are deeply ingrained and heavily reinforced by existing systems and structures.  It is the employees who have to make the change successful.  But employees often do not know how to do the job in a new and whether it makes sense to engage, resist, stay, or leave.

Employees Need to Share Responsibility for Change
Often employees feel that change is not their problem; change is only the responsibility of the top leaders or of a change leadership team.  If people act like the leaders will take care of them, they will not take the responsibility, initiative, or develop a real commitment to self-development during the change process.

Employees also tend to focus narrowly on their own specific area of responsibility which can limit their ability to see the overall need and direction for change.  But when there is a major change effort, every employee has to develop a broader and more strategic big picture view of where the organization is why.

8 Guiding Principles to Develop Individual Change Capability

  1. Engage the Human Factors, the Emotional Side of Change
    Change can be upsetting, disorienting, and difficult.  People need explicit support and help to move through their denial and resistance to change before they can become a meaningful part of a change initiative.  Be willing to invest resources to support employees through the change process.
  2. The Quicker the Change Process is Initiated, the Quicker the Change Can Take Place
    Changing attitudes, engaging people, and building the new workplace take a considerable amount of time.  The earlier you address these issues, the quicker you’ll be able to implement change and obtain the desired results.  It is never too early to begin to engage the workforce in the needed changes.
  3. The Use of Repeatable Models and Common Language Makes It Easier to Constructively Discuss Change
    Putting everyone through the same change kickoff, orientation, and program enables all employees, managers, and stakeholders to speak about the change in the same terms, gives them with a shared experience they can fall back on, and provides a framework for holding discussions and addressing concerns.
  4. Leaders Need to be Visible at the Earliest Phases of Change
    Employees are used to seeing what leaders do and what they reward – especially if they conflict with what is being espoused.  Employees need change management training and reinforcement in new ways to work.  The organizational reward and management systems have to work differently in order to get employees to behave differently.
  5. Honesty and Candor Build Trust
    People see through unrealistic forecasts, contradictory statements, and corporate visions that do not reflect what is possible.  A lack of transparency only damages credibility and hinders the development of a coalition for change.  Honesty, even if difficult, allows for a shared basis of respect and sets the stage for candid dialogue.
  6. Create Several Successive Change Awareness Events
    Commitment to change is a process that moves through several phases and activities and involves many people.  Several successive change events throughout the organization are necessary to build commitment and a realistic understanding of what is to come.
  7. Since New Possibilities Propel Change, Stakeholders Should Challenge Conventional and Prevailing Wisdom
    Change is better, deeper, and faster when employers are excited about what their organization can be, not just what it has to do.  Allow stakeholders to make the changes personal, meaningful, and worthwhile to them, their teams, and the company as a whole.
  8. You Need to Change Both Mindsets and Behavior for Change to Achieve Its Potential
    Individuals need to develop a new set of thoughts and mindsets about work and the sets of skills and capabilities to put those thoughts into action.  Recruitment, new hire orientation,  and performance management processes must be adjusted to emphasize the new skills and mindsets.

    It is difficult to help people shift their mindset until you demonstrate how and why their tasks are shifting.  Experiential learning is the fastest way to acquire new skills.

The Bottom Line
Just as a change champions need to learn about change, employees need education and preparation to be an integral and engaged part of the change process.  If employees are treated as passive recipients, waiting to be told what to do, they will not be real partners in change.  Are you investing enough to develop individual change capability?

To learn more about successful change at work, download How to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative 

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