Love this brief, compelling video on “Leading Change” by Pat Zigarmi. 

In this blog post, I will paraphrase the gems from her talk that correlate with my personal experience helping plan, strategise and implement effective change interventions in organisations.

Firstly, she reminds us to keep the following key principles in mind:

  1. People don’t resist change. They resist being controlled.
  2. The people who plan the battle do not battle the plan.

In short, to make change effective, plan a high people involvement strategy.Research from the University of Texas shows six predictable stages of concerns that people have about change:

Stage 1 — Information concerns

People want to know what the change is about and why we need to change. They don’t want to be sold about the change. Just given the facts so they can draw the same conclusions. In planning change, management would do well to reflect on the following question:

“What is it that you know, that if your people knew, they could come to the same conclusion?”

For instance, in helping a client with an organisational restructure designed to eke out greater efficiencies, we shared with the people the following:

  • Revenues are going up.
  • Our product is considered a “commodity”, our competitors come from countries with a significantly lower labour cost base, our clients expect annual decreases in our product pricing.
  • Staff costs will continue to rise.
  • Profitability is decreasing and will continue to do so unless we take action.
  • Staff are already working hard, long hours.

And then posed to them the following question: “To stay competitive and to stand a chance of improving our staff’s work-life balance and bonuses, what would you do?”

People are smart. By involving and helping staff come up with their same conclusions for the need for change, we get buy-in and commitment to embrace it.

Stage 2 — Personal Concerns

It’s natural for people to ask “what’s in it for me? Will I win or lose? How is this going to affect me?”

To address this,

  • Facilitate sessions that balance a healthy dose of asking and telling. Tease out answers to questions like “imagine if we have succeeded in making this change — how might it benefit you?”
  • Be up-front about the temporary pain and sacrifices the team will make in order to enjoy the benefits of the change e.g. the need to cope with the style of a new manager or learn new skills.
  • Communicate examples of “benefits” or “wins” for instance, the ability to free up certain staff for exciting new opportunities with other parts of the organisation, or how workload has decreased due to the flow of new ideas from new colleagues.

Stage 3 — Implementation Concerns

Apart from the what and why, it is important that the team is involved in and is clear about how the change is going to work. And where they can turn to for help. Get management buy-in and support to create 100-day implementation plans. Ask the question – “how will we know 100 days from today that this change is working and that we are reaping the intended benefits from the change?” and “what are the various initiatives or projects we will undertake with clear responsibilities and ownership to drive towards these outcomes?”

Stage 4 — Impact Concerns

Your team will want to know if the change is really making a difference.

So plan for short-term wins, plan to communicate regularly to keep them abreast and encouraged that this is working. Expect that particularly in the early days as new habits are forming, it will be common to experience setbacks. It is critical that staff gets a balanced view and be encouraged by the positives coming from the change so that they know there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” and that the sacrifices are worthwhile.

Stage 5 — Collaboration Concerns

Consider how to get everyone that needs to be involved on board. It is natural for people to think “yes, I’m all for this but what’s the point if others aren’t?” Be proactive about ensuring implementation plans involve a broad range of people – this includes up-skilling, communicating with them and creating relevant channels e.g. coffee sessions, projects, online change “forums” that facilitate a two-way dialogue and enable the team to express ideas and to be involved.

Stage 6 — Refinement Concerns

Think of how to monitor concerns and proactively address them so that you are continually refining and improving your implementation strategies.In summary, the key to addressing the six concerns that people have about change is to plan and implement a high involvement strategy. Give people an opportunity to have their voice heard. Your change strategy should include workshops, coffee sessions, dedicated change and communication agents, portals for two-way dialogue, training and communicating of wins to reinforce beliefs that the change is working and the team is winning!

Remember that research has shown that one of the primary sources of intrinsic motivation is autonomy. If people feel trusted and are given a voice, if they feel their voice is heard, they will feel more involved, able to express concerns and thus bring forth the positive energy required to move your change forward in a positive way. Your goal should always be to have your team feeling that “the change is not being done to them but WITH them.”