Change management – sustainable change in 5 steps
by Franz Schwarenthorer Integrated Consulting Vienna
Recently I talked to a desperate leader who complained: „My employees just don’t go along. They object to everything!” When I asked her what the employees’ level of knowledge was, she answered: “All of them were informed several times.” In this answer you may find both, problem AND solution.
I thought about a quote that is ascribed to Konrad Lorenz:
|What is thought is not always said,|
|what is said is not always heard,||Information|
|what is heard is not always understood,||Understanding|
|what is understood is not always agreed,||Acceptance|
|what is agreed is not always done,||New doing|
|what is done is not always done again.||Sustainable doing /change behaviors|
Herein the necessary steps employees need to go through in order to eventually change their behavior are concealed: getting informed – understand – accept – do (try) – retain.
Again and again I encounter leaders who are disappointed if their employees do not rejoice after an information event. The reason may be that they are supposed to rush through the four steps from information to new doing within only 1.5 hours.
I’d like to elaborate on these steps: Information has to reach the recipient. According to surveys a leader needs to repeat important statements on change at least 15 to 25 times so that they are definitely received. A one-time lecture where some slides (that are probably hard to read) are presented is not enough to be really heard.
Our language can be the source for countless misunderstandings and uncertainties. What do you mean by “fundamental change”, “leaders in excellence”, “best in class” …? Everyone envisions his own images to that. Only repeated questioning and probing will allow getting a common comprehension and understanding. Questions like “To what extent is this comprehensible for you? What questions do you have?” should get extra room in each event. But most of the time one event is far from enough.
The fact that something has been understood does not necessarily mean that the said is accepted, too. This needs in-depth analysis, discussion of pros and cons, handling of fears and interests. The process can take several weeks and leaders have to be available.
A very specific support is needed to move from acceptance to doing. An approach may be a playful “trial doing” within a workshop or for example the agreement that everyone tests a new software for five days and afterwards reports their experiences. It is important that the new is experienced. This is how fears get removed.
After the first experiences it is important not to get back to old routines but to support employees in releasing old habits and accepting new ones as the new normal.
These five steps need awareness and time.
The author is consultant at ICG Integrated Consulting Group, an European consulting group whose motto is ”Your Partner in Change“. He supports industry and service companies as well as organizations in the health, cultural and public sector with challenging development processes.