The Yes Blog

7 Things You May Be Getting Wrong About Change Management

What do your company and diapers have in common? They’ve got to be changed regularly.

It’s not your fault. You’re not doing anything wrong. Your company (unlike diapers) isn’t full of crap. Rather, we live in a changing world and you’ve got changing goals, and so what got you to the present you’re in won’t get you to the future you want.

Change required.

Change Management Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

“Change Management” the way it’s usually practiced is a band-aid placed on the wound that is the fear that people have of failing at work. It’s too little, and often too late.

What you need is change readiness.

Remember gym class… or basketball practice? We learned the “ready position.” You’ve got your feet just a bit more than hip width apart. You’re on the balls of your feet. Your hands are up and out. And you’re not standing stock still. You’re shifting your weight, anticipating where the action might take you next.

You’re in ready to respond mode. If the ball moved, and you went into change management instead of being change ready, the coach would not have been happy with you. Your team-mates would not have been happy with you. The score board would have reflected… well… not much scoring.

And yet most companies, change management is the status quo. In other words, status quo is the status quo. How do I know? For one thing, look to the prevalence of the saying, “same shit, different day,” or, “another day, another dollar.” People are complacent, expecting the monotony of work they’ve come to expect.

You want an agile company? You need people in ready position.

There’s a huge gulf between RESISTING and ACCEPTING change, between accepting and EMBRACING, between embracing and DRIVING and between driving and INITIATING. Where on that continuum is your team? Where do you want them to be?

7 Change Management Misconceptions

The video below will walk you through them in some detail, and below that is a quick list.

  1. “People RESIST CHANGE” isn’t the full story. What’s more true is that people are afraid of failing. They resist risking failure. And our brains are wired to understand that the most likely way to survive until tomorrow is to do today exactly what I did yesterday. It worked. If you want people to execute change, you need to increase their chances of success while lowering the risk of failure.
  2. Many (most) leaders focus on what will be DIFFERENT. As we talked about above, different is scary. Yes, tell people what’s going to change. In order to help people embrace the unknown, you’ve also got to tell them what will remain the same. Remember going from middle school to high school? You likely said something like, “Well at least my friend Alice will be there.” Those familiar things that will remain can serve as an anchor in a storm, and as an orienting tool like the north star.
  3. “Change Management” isn’t a great way to think about leading change. It puts you BEHIND THE CURVE. If the first time you think about changing your oil is when your engine seizes up, you’re late. If the first time you think about getting your team through a change is when you’re faced with a change imperative NOW (like when COVID arrived) you’re late. You need them change ready. All the time.
  4. Your change plan is both CRUCIAL and INSUFFICIENT. A change plan is crucial because it gives you a framework for addressing contingencies, and lays out a logical progression, and it calms people. It’s insufficient because, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” And the enemy is everywhere. Are your people ready, willing, and able to engage the enemy and drive toward the objective anyway?
  5. Change Management typically views and handles change as the EXCEPTION. It says to people, “Let’s get through this, and you can relax on the other side.” What other side? Change IS, so make change a way of life, not an exception. There’s a huge gulf between RESISTING and ACCEPTING change, between accepting and EMBRACING, between embracing and DRIVING and between driving and INITIATING. Where on that continuum is your team? Where do you want them to be?
  6. STATUS QUO is the ENEMY every day, not just at CHANGE TIME. To be fair, the enemy is not actually status quo. The enemy is comfort. The status quo is comfortable. And as I heard a coach tell his team once when I was in high school, “Being comfortable never made nobody proud.”
  7. There’s no BALANCE to be struck between CHALLENGING people and SUPPORTING them. The pursuit of balance is trouble. It cannot be struck. Imagine any balancing act. There’s one precise point of balance, and it’s ever so easy to miss it and your house of cards falls. What you want is a marriage between support and challenge for a resilient and change ready team.

If you’d like to see your team adopt a “ready position” so your company is more agile, so people are initiating critical change and giving your company a competitive (even an unfair) advantage, feel free to reach out or book a call for a no-pitch conversation about how you can move your team and your company in that direction.

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