Do You Need Your Teams to Embrace New Ways of Working?
When behavioral change in the workplace is required, change management consulting experts know the reaction of those affected by change is often one of frustration and resistance. Why? Because it’s not easy or convenient to learn, practice, and embrace new ways of working.
So the question is: How can you help those most affected by change to embrace new ways of working required to get where you want to go?
What the Change Management Research Says
We know from our change management simulation data that four things are required to help people to embrace new ways of working.
- Actively Involve Stakeholders Until They Feel Like It Is Mostly Their Idea
First you need to actively involve stakeholders early and often in the change design process so that they buy into the rationale for change and so that they have the opportunity to create a shared vision for change that they believe in.
Though most decisions to make major organizational change are initiated from the executive team, executives are typically not the actual implementers of the change. They may initiate, define, articulate, and communicate change to the rest of the company — but they are usually not the ones responsible for operationalizing change.
To be successful, change must go through your people and your culture. Because you need their input and support, be transparent, inclusive, and honest about discussing and agreeing upon the urgency for change, the cost of change, and the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Invite constructive debate, different opinions, and feedback. Do not move to action until the majority of key stakeholders are on the same page and believe that it is time to act.
- Have the Patience to Go Slow to Go Fast
Change research confirms that gradual changes are easier to make and sustain. Lasting organizational change is a process that must be respected, not an event that can be forced quickly upon people. Change takes acceptance and requires organizational patience, persistence, and resilience.
Don’t expect that change will happen overnight. Anticipate and plan for confusion, change resistance, and bumps along the road. When inevitable setbacks occur, accept them, learn from them, and use them to amplify everyone’s commitment to change.
Be open and prepared to make both big and small adjustments as you learn what works and what does not work in your unique situation.
- Focus on Small and Concrete Steps that Move Things Forward
While big hairy audacious goals sound exciting, it is difficult to motivate change when the benefits are in the distant future or seem unattainable. Smart change leaders break the overall change down into concrete, meaningful, and achievable goals. Small change wins create momentum and increase hope.
Remember, you are asking people to forge new ways of working that require creating new neural paths. This takes practice, positive feedback, and repetition.
- Encourage and Reinforce Desired Behaviors
Psychologically, positive reinforcement refers to rewarding and reinforcing desirable behavior to increase the likelihood that the desired behavior will be repeated in the future. Negative reinforcement is the encouragement of certain behaviors by removing or avoiding a negative outcome or stimuli.
While much has been written debating the appropriateness and effectiveness of each approach, one thing is certain: people change when their environment changes. If you want to change behavior, ensure that the new ways of working are appropriately rewarded while the old ways of working are proportionately penalized.
The Bottom Line
Companies that excel at embracing new ways of working are agile enough to face new challenges and open enough to take advantage of new opportunities. Are you involving stakeholders, being patient, focusing on achievable wins, and reinforcing what matters most?
To learn more about how to help people to embrace new ways of working, download How to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative