Towards a new comprehensive paradigm of change management

The use of change management methodologies has proven very good results and every day more and more organizations understand their importance. However, there are still those who do not get it. And, to some extent, they are right. Because what they are seeing is not real change management. Below, some suggestions to approach transformations in a holistic way.

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The myopia of resistance

When projects fail, people are usually blamed for their resistance to change. And the actions that organizations generally perform aim to dismantle them. But our experience shows us this is not enough.

Organizations that, in order to accelerate the adoption of new behaviors and habits, rely only on communication and training plans, do so thinking only of individual resistances. But this strategy is totally superficial.

Organizations that, in order to accelerate the adoption of new behaviors and habits, rely only on communication and training plans, do so thinking only of individual resistances. But this strategy is totally superficial.

Change inhibiting factors

Perhaps the clearest way to explain why the change get blocked is that of Kris Østergaard, co-founder and Chief Learning & Innovation Officer of SingularityU Nordic, in his book How Big Companies Can Simultaneously Run and Reinvent Their Businesses. The main inhibitor of change, he says, is not people’s resistance (although it clearly impacts) but the immune system of organizations.

This concept describes a powerful mechanism that protects the corporation in order to keep it healthy and stable. It provides a sense of security and permanence, allows decisions and helps deal with uncertainty.

For example, some of the components of that immune system are:

  • relationship policies with the clients and staff,
  • relationship policies with the clients and staff,
  • technological and process infrastructure,
  • the structure of rewards,
  • the interpretation that leaders must have all the answers,
  • the demand for immediate results from shareholders,
  • the position regarding the current context

Suggestions to deal with inhibitory factors and build a comprehensive change management plan

The only way to profoundly influence the immune system of the organization is to develop a harmonious global plan, promoted by the senior management to modify the beliefs and practices that the organization considers to be true.

And, to do so, one of the fundamental competencies that leaders need is the virtue of unlearning -asking instead of explaining, and opening themselves to new ways of working. Managers are the first ones who need to be transformed.

How to approach the main inhibitory factors of change:

  • Review the relationship policies with the clients and staff: These should be consistent with the vision of change.
  • Review the indicators: Establish metrics that are consistent with the objectives of the change and relate the indicators to their causes.
  • Ensure the necessary infrastructure: Ensure that you have the required computer systems, tools and resources.
  • Define recognitions and rewards: Generate differentiation between those who promote the change and those who don´t in order to foster motivation (for example, development assignments or monetary compensations).
  • Establish unlearning policies: Involve the operational employees in the change, communicate objectives, request feeback, promote autonomy and initiative, and do not be afraid of being wrong.
  • Involve shareholders: Present them indicators showing that we are on the right track so that they understand and support the transformation, and reduce pressure for immediate results.
  • Promote a vision of the future: Establish objectives that project a sustainable business over time.

To sum up, true change management must understand inhibitory factors and focus on how the organization’s immune system works. Only from this perspective can you face a change that is fully accepted, recognized and promoted by the entire organization.

Author: Raúl Molteni

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