Key learning outcomes:
- Understand that the change process applies to both your working and personal lives.
- Identify the five key stages of the change process.
- Recognise the need for planning before embarking on the change process.
- Acknowledge that resistance needs to be overcome in order for the change initiative to succeed.
All change initiatives follow a set pattern and path, whether you are trying to drive change through your business or change something in your lifestyle. As we work through each step of our simple change model, you will gain a greater understanding of why some change initiatives are easier to implement than others. Through gaining a better knowledge and understanding of how change happens, you will be able to lead and manage change more effectively in your business and your personal life.
Step One – Current reality
This is the starting point for any change initiative. The more knowledge and understanding you have about your current reality, the better.[wlm_ismember]
A simple example is when someone wants or needs to lose weight. The current reality would be their weight at the start of the process, what they are eating and how much they are exercising.
Step Two – Driver
A change occurs because there has been a driver or trigger that has created a need for change. The driver could be internal or external. External forces such as economic or market conditions might prompt the need for change, or it may be an internal issue such as high staff turnover. We suggest you read our learning article “Driving forces for change”, for a greater understanding of why change may be necessary. The important thing to remember is that for any change initiative, the stronger and more compelling the driver, the more successful the change is likely to be.
Take for example the person who wants to lose weight. The driver for change could come from an internal or external source. Perhaps the person has a special event coming up and they want to look their best for it; therefore, they decide to lose some weight. Or perhaps they have been for a doctor’s visit and the doctor has told them that their health is at serious risk if they do not lose some weight.
Step three – Plan
The planning and preparation phase is crucial to the success of any change initiative. The more work that you put into this step, the better the chances of sustainable change. The things to think about in this step are:
- Who is going to be impacted by the change?
- When is the change going to happen?
- How will the change take place?
- What resources are needed to ensure the best possible chance of success?
- What steps and actions are required to achieve the desired result?
In our above example, the plan may include changing the person’s diet and increasing the amount of exercise that they are doing. Depending on the person and situation, some outside resources may be required such as a personal trainer, dietitian or a calorie-controlled food delivery each week.
Step four – The reaction
At this point there is a fork in the process. There will be either a positive or negative reaction to the change, which will determine which path the change process follows. The change process follows the upper path when the reaction to change is a positive one and the lower path when it is not.
If the initial reaction to the change is positive, the process will proceed. However, the reaction to change can be negative even if a person has made the decision themselves to embark on the change. When a company is in a situation of change, it is likely there will be a mix of positive and negative reactions from those impacted by the change.
If there is a positive reaction in our earlier example, the person would embrace the weight loss plan and be enthusiastic about commencing a new eating and exercise regime. On the flip side, they may have a negative reaction, and although they know that they should or need to lose weight, their motivation to change their eating and exercise habits is simply not strong enough.
Step five – Action or resistance
The upper path moves through to the action phase. This is where change takes place and the plan is put into action. It should be noted that there could be some challenges and setbacks in this phase, but a positive attitude will help to overcome them and keep the change process moving forward.
In our example, the person has stuck to their diet and exercise plan. They are seeing some results that keep them motivated. Despite some setbacks such as an illness or a bad eating day, a positive attitude gets them back on track.
A negative reaction to change moves the process along the lower path to resistance. Managing and overcoming resistance is one of the most important steps in the change process. This step is a crossroad – if you cannot overcome the resistance and move the person back up to the upper path to action, change cannot happen. Here are two key ways to overcome resistance:
- Go back to the why – If the need for change is not strong enough, it is unlikely that the change initiative will succeed. See if the need for change can be enhanced or if it can be explained or illustrated in a more compelling way. In our example, the doctor may use statistics or evidence to show that if the person does not lose weight, they may be endangering their life, which in turn might shock them into action.
- Identify and overcome the obstacles – If you working with those impacted by the change, you can discover why they are resistant to the change. Perhaps some issues were not identified in the planning stage, making it more difficult to introduce the change. For example, you might identify a skill gap that is holding people back from being able to implement the change. Once the issue is identified it is then possible to find a solution to get the process back on track. Let’s go back to our earlier example. If the person who needs to lose weight is in a job that requires them to eat out several days and nights each week, this makes it very hard for them to stick to the diet. With help and guidance they may learn how to make appropriate choices at the restaurant or find a way to avoid eating out frequently.
Step six – Change or no change
The result of the change initiative is determined by this last step. If the change progresses right through the process along the top path, a new reality is created. The level of success can be measured against the information from step one of the process. For example, the person who needs to lose weight can step back on the scales and note the amount of weight they have lost. Additionally, the doctor may use some health indicators such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels to help determine the level of change.
If you were unable to overcome the resistance to change in step five, no change will have been achieved. There is the risk that if you don’t overcome the resistance, it may result in bad behaviour. You will see this in a company where the resistance to change is so strong that one or more people actively work to sabotage the change initiative. We also see this when someone tries to change their own behaviour or habits, which is when we hear terms like “self-sabotage”. For example, our person who needs to lose weight may have actually gained weight during the process. The negative reaction to losing weight may be so strong that they rebelled by eating poorly and exercising even less.
Change does not happen just because you want it to; it takes careful thought, planning and preparation. By gaining a greater understanding of the change process, you are better able to drive change in your business and in your personal life. Remember, the more compelling the reasons for change, the greater the chance of successful change. Ensure your planning and preparation are thorough and that you take into consideration the issues and obstacles that you may face. Finally, recognise that resistance is a normal part of the change process; but only when you overcome it will you achieve change.
We have a number of other articles that will help with driving change through your business including “ “Eight steps for leading change” and “Force field analysis”.[/wlm_ismember]
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