Effective change management – 5 silver bullets

Everyone likes their insights short and simple, and applicable in real life. Insights that easily solve a long-standing problem a.k.a. the silver bullet. Here are 5 of the best insights for effective change management – leading to sustainable results – by Thomas Swaak, Managing Consultant, Industry consulting at Philips Engineering Solutions.

  1. What makes people take action
  2. What influences the likelihood of change
  3. The magic of consequence, reward & ownership
  4. Beyond training
  5. Getting resistance right

Silver bullet #1 – what makes people take action

People don’t act or change because of the information you send or share with them. They act on the connection that you make and the cadence you establish as a follow-up.

  • Connect with the head to establish a common meaning.
  • Connect from the heart to understand key interests on both sides.
  • Connect at the level of hands (action) to understand what to do and how to do it.

And then meet briefly every week (15 minutes) to keep track, support and complete the change.

Silver bullet #2 – what influences the likelihood of change

People are more likely to change if they feel they have a chance to succeed. For that to happen you need 5 things:

  1. A shared context: a clear personal and organizational reason to make a change.
  2. An opportunity to learn: through training or coaching on the job.
  3. A safe space to practice: learning by doing, and failing forward, learning quickly from early mistakes.
  4. A closed feedback loop: with others in the same boat to share & build knowledge.
  5. A clear line of sight on personal and organizational benefits for all concerned.

Silver bullet #3 – the magic of consequence, reward & ownership

Three critical success factors that are often overlooked during the design of a transformation, but they are critical to effective change management:

  • Consequence management: what are the consequences of not buying into the change, and how will they be enforced?
  • Rewards: how will new behavior or ways of working be reinforced? How to change the reward system to ensure people are encouraged to keep the change alive in a sustainable way?
  • Ownership: who will own the results of the transformation and ensure they are continually improved? Transformations last because there are consequences to choices, rewards for appropriate performance, and a social infrastructure to sustain and continually improve the results.

Silver bullet #4 – beyond training

When training is part of your change management transformation solution, remember that it is part of a 6 step cycle.

  • Step 1 is to ensure leadership communicates about and participates in the training cycle itself – speaks to priority and credibility of the training itself.
  • Step 2 is to start with a brief context workshop – participants get a chance to understand the broader context & reasons for the training, why it is important for them as well as the organization. Getting this kind of attention and opportunity to get clarification really motivates people.
  • Step 3 is the actual training, which should always combine content, interactive exercises and a safe environment to simulate the new way of working. Keep in mind that one-way slideware training is a waste of time.
  • Step 4 is coaching on the job: always have a small supporting team ahead of the pack who can do this for the first 3-6 months after the training.
  • Step 5 is to introduce peer to peer coaching so that folks start to develop on their own.
  • Step 6 is handing over ownership and continuous improvement of the new way of working to a specific group of people.

Remember, a one-off training has practically zero effect. A training cycle ensures a sustainable change.

Silver bullet #5 – getting resistance right

Resistance: how do you deal with it effectively? Let’s start with two principles:

  1. First of all, it is not your job, nor are you able to take away anyone’s resistance to anything. People do this for themselves. Period.
  2. Second, resistance is rarely resolved by the convincing arguments you bring to bear.

The actual answer here resides in a very simple human aspect: we all want to be seen, heard, acknowledged, understood and respected. So when someone resists, make sure you listen deeply. Repeat back what you have heard to ensure your perception & understanding is correct. Then explore the other person’s interests: what are their priorities, what value do they want to protect, what are they afraid of losing. Then summarize and repeat back. By this time you’ve earned some head space for your ideas because you have started from where the other person actually is.

Connect to this person’s interests, show how what you offering actually helps and supports. Be clear if the change is inevitable, and create room as to how to accomplish it. Make sure you distinguish between:

  • discussing facts,
  • feelings about those facts,
  • the meaning or importance of those facts,
  • and which actions the facts imply.

Then you are enabling the other person to ultimately overcome their own resistance. And at the same time you are taking big steps in your own effective change management journey.

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