When we think about what facilitates successful organizational change, we tend to think of visible sponsorship, active engagement of those involved in the change, and incrementalism.
However, I was reminded of two other important pieces to the change jigsaw puzzle after reading the book Agile Change Management: Trust and talent.
You might take exception to the first one and say that trust is necessary for any business interaction or transaction to succeed. While that is true, there is a greater need for trust when people are being asked to leave their comfort zones and adopt new processes or tools. When there is a high level of trust that the leadership team is looking out for them and acting in the best interests of both the organization and its people resources, there is a stronger likelihood that staff will take a leap of faith.
When staff distrust the intentions or actions of their leaders, they may say that are going to embrace a change and might even begin to adopt it. Unfortunately, their commitment to staying the course is likely to be brief, especially if they hit the inevitable challenges which come with trying something new. When this happens, they will regress to previous practices defending their behavior by saying that they did give the changes a fair try.
We’ve seen this happen frequently in the world of politics – citizens will blissfully vote against their self interests simply because they don’t trust the person who is pushing a platform which is beneficial to them.
Melanie Franklin, the author of the book, references talent in relation to those implementing the change – this is obviously important since the change will not be implemented as effectively or efficiently by those lacking necessary skills and further, the perception of the change will be sullied in the eyes of those impacted by the change. Her logical assertion is that when we work on things which we are good at, we tend to derive more satisfaction and are more engaged in the work.
I’ll go one further and say that talent is an equally important consideration in those who are expected to adopt the change. Nearly all change implementations including a communications and training component to help adopters learn new practices. However, many times the change team does not consider whether the necessary prerequisite behaviors and skills are in place to ensure that the training they are providing will achieve the desired objectives.
My favorite analogy is that of teaching a caveman how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. You might educate him on the importance of a firm stance to absorb recoil, but without foundational understanding, he is as likely to fall to the ground and worship the weapon as he is to use it properly!
So the next time you are managing a change initiative, add these questions to your impact assessment checklist:
- Do those about to be impacted by the change trust those who are implementing and championing it?
- Do those who will be impacted by the change have the necessary foundational skills to successfully adopt it?