Everyone talks about innovation, transformation and the future. The world is changing and we have to be prepared and resilient, not just for present challenges of our VUCA contexts, but for the future ones.
The concept, VUCA, originated with students at the US Army War College to describe the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the world after the Cold War. VUCA is still relevant today and many recognise that we are still living in a VUCA context. It is because of this that we must prepare employees for the changes that are about to come, not for the context of today.
However, changes that are made without appropriate preparation can cause pain. As neurobiology explains, humans do not possess a predisposition to change. When change occurs, our brain organises a series of chemical and electrical resources that modify the state of the body, the mental state, and prepares itself to generate a response. Our basal ganglia in the ancestral or primitive brain are responsible for 'wiring' habits. This cluster of nerve cell bodies is involved in functions such as automatic or routine behaviours that we are familiar with, or that make us feel good. In addition to the basal ganglia, each time a behaviour feels good, you experience a dopamine rush which encourages you to repeat the behaviour and eventually create a habit. Any type of change can go against the neural pathways that have become automatic to us. This is why we tend to fall back on our default or automatic behaviours when we try to implement changes.
Although we can consciously control the decision to change, this requires much more effort from a region known as the neocortex. To overcome a lack of motivation and other obstacles that are getting in the way of success, frequent exercise and conscious action planning are involved because we have to prepare our workforce to embrace the change. To generate a real and sustainable change it is important to identify and transform routines and beliefs.
With this in mind, then, it is crucial to make any change with employees at the centre. Including your people in the design process will ensure that it will be a change they need and want. Once you have this foundation, here are some tips that can help with change management in an organisation:
Before the change
- Before making change, you must have built trust within the company. Business leaders, executive team and the board of directors should be part of your allies’ network, allowing you to trust them to communicate any changes optimistically.
- Proactivity and curiosity help people digest change. Proactivity and curiosity are premeditated behaviours that allow people and organisations to anticipate the future and adapt to new scenarios. A firm with high levels of curiosity and proactivity shows a committed and high performance workforce. Proactive teams have a common purpose and shared objectives. So build trust, value differences, increase empathy and raise collaboration through teams to ensure the successful implementation of change.
- Internal communication is key for any firm. It has to be strong enough before any changes are made to ensure that the firm communicates to its employees and vice versa. Communication channels and methodologies could help with this, as well as analysing whether the team have the resources, tools and knowledge for the change.
During the change - motivation and support
Motivation is another key to success when implementing change. Sometimes lack of motivation comes from a lack of confidence, often a result of perfectionism and procrastination. Somewhere between motivation and execution is where self-sabotage and self-doubt play out. At this point, it is important to identify which thought processes intercept the process of achieving your goal. Re-calibrate goals of change into smaller components to help people make the changes. Divide the overarching goal into a series of small, specific and measurable tasks. Small goals are easier to accomplish, so check each one off the list to encourage your workforce to keep going. Also don't forget to reward employees after each goal to ensure they get a hit of dopamine!
Making items measurable also allows you to recognise and celebrate different milestones of the change and the move onto the next step. Remember the Goldilocks effect: people engage most with material at the precipice of complexity.
Make sure you have other supports in place to help with accountability and motivation for change. Having unfailing and non-judgemental support, with a combination of evidence-based strategies and practical, lived experience is essential to help people make change.
After the change
Reinforce, recognise and reward your people!
Even though these tips are valid for any organisation, a change management plan has to be tailored to a company's current situation.
Here at everis UK we know how important and impactful an organisational change is, so we have designed our change management plans centred around those that influence people to make change successful.
We help with changes before, during and after to be sure we implement them in the right way to minimise any pain points.
Before the change we prepare the organisation
- We always involve our people in the definition
- We prepare strategic communication plans for spreading the information
- We work together with executives and line managers to be an active part of the change. This help to facilitate change, transmit information, support the team, communicate a positive attitude and to be culture & values role models
During the change we are the support that our people need:
- We execute the communication plan
- We implement a comprehensive transition plan
- We run a tailored training plan about the topic
- We offer coaching which is a vital action for the change to be effective.
After the change
- We stabilise the organisation and implement reinforcement actions
- Consolidation through online training, news, team catchups…
- Accompany people and give them time to digest the change
- Asking feedback from teams about the change
- Adjusting if needed
Our tailored and structured change management plans include specific actions to help us to achieve what is expected. But it is crucial for us to always understand what the change means for our people and take initiative when we define and implement to motivate them to want to be part of the change.
This is how we can be ready for the VUCA context we live in today and for what is coming next. As Sören Kierkegaard said “Don’t assume risk is to lose yourself”… so take the risk and be ready to change.
“When you first try to adopt a new behaviour, a change, you have to enlist your prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain, and insert conscious effort, intention, and thought into the process.”