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The Journey of Change

Building Belief in the Possibility

Episode Two

Last week, we set the scene for the journey that organizations are embarking upon; the journey to better performance. In this week's episode we focus on how to get started on the journey by building belief in the possibility of better performance.

resistance (noun): the refusal to accept or comply with something

We've all heard the comments “this won't last,” “it's just another new initiative,” “things are fine, we don't need to change.” These early voices could be heard as skepticism, contention, struggle, confusion, hesitance, dissatisfaction, or seen as people exercising their autonomy or perhaps even showing resistance. Whatever you call it, it is a symptom of something that is happening that needs to be addressed. The traditional definition of resistance suggests that this is something to avoid, remove or silence during the change journey. Innately, change tends to evoke feelings of insecurity, fear and uncertainty, and externally these feelings can be expressed with comments mired in doubt and disbelief. The emotions associated with change are well documented and discussed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her 1969 book on Death and Dying. Hence, we must shift our mindset, listen and lean-in to the commentary, embrace these powerful voices and recognize them as meaningful cues to the values and the emotional state of the organization. They are a necessary, welcomed and significant part of ensuring the journey's success.

"Welcoming uncomfortable commentary and resistance is a huge paradigm shift that should not be underestimated." Amanda Sherlock, Head of Recruitment, Evolve Partners

Dr. John Toussaint, author of On the Mend, wrote: "The old blame and shame culture is likely to emerge at this point - when change becomes difficult. When people resist change, others tend to blame them for being an obstacle and diminish their role in the new process. Organizations must learn that resistance is a good and necessary part of the process. Without sufficient resistance to test and challenge the new ideas, true buy-in and commitment to the new order will be elusive at best.”

As a way of understanding these early organizational voices, it is up to us to begin by providing the organization with experiences that build the belief and help them to see opportunities where a new level of performance is possible. The organization needs to believe that change can happen by identifying areas for realistic, practical change. The belief that change can occur grows as the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo increases. To achieve this, leaders have an important role. They must take on the responsibility to craft and communicate a compelling vision for change, one that attracts, resonates, inspires and energizes the organization.

"Leaders need to be careful when communicating the vision, that the message is not "look how bad we've been" but instead, "look how good we could be." Will Nierenberg, Client Partner, Evolve

Leaders then need to help the wider organization to connect and engage with this change vision, and internalize what this means for them on a personal level, as well as what it will mean to their work group. Following this, getting small groups of people further involved in completing business analyses, conducting operational studies and defining the roadmap for the change, helps them uncover the practical challenges to be addressed. Working through these activities is intended to create a new level of performance, different from today's norm.

As the belief builds through connection with the vision, dissatisfaction with the current state and understanding of the practical areas where change needs to happen, people are generally open to exploring how they can contribute to making a difference and being part of a new future. This generates momentum, excitement, motivation and commitment in pockets of the organization, and builds the confidence to continue, lessening some of the initial concerns.

VDKS>R Model originates from work done by David Gleicher circa 1969 after published by Richard Beckhart and Reuben Harris circa 1987, all pioneers in the OD field.

In one of our recent programs with a major chemical client, they were producing at 97% of name plate capacity and did not believe that production levels could be better or needed to be better. Leadership engaged them in a vision to aspire to higher levels of production as their company mission was to become the top producer in the industry, they were currently #2. Through a process of exploring and analyzing production losses and opportunities they discovered many areas for growth. More case studies

“Now we look at what we are capable of producing and go with that. If we are exceeding that number we increase it. It's our new normal, we no longer accept name plate as a limiting factor as we have been able to produce well beyond this.” said a Contact Engineer

Yet just as the excitement to get started peaks, we encounter the first real obstacle in the road, challenging the change journey - the "Getting into Action" challenge.

Despite the momentum and urgency created through building belief, getting teams mobilized and focused to begin implementation, is a challenge to overcome. At this point the reality of the workload sets in and people are torn between delivering on their current job responsibilities and kicking off new work teams to begin addressing the opportunities that were uncovered. The tension between delivering on the day-to-day demands and getting involved in the “change work” required to focus on improvement, can be a crippling moment for organizations to overcome, and at this point, many change efforts “fall through the cracks.” This is the point where a dedicated team needs to be mobilized. These are the change agents who will maintain a sense of urgency, drive and purpose. They will develop and demonstrate a new style of working, launch the improvement effort and work tirelessly to remove obstacles on the path.

In our next episode, we will begin discussing Captivating the Wider Organization and the Knowing Doing Challenge.

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