By Dr. Rachel MK Headley

Finally! The “How” of Preparing Staff for Change
5 October 2017 | 10:28 am

On the surface, instituting change shouldn’t be that hard – you communicate the goal in a way that resonates with your team, prepare your people, institute new habits, and systematize those habits. Voila!

Yes, well, maybe not so obviously easy: 70%+ of changes fail to be implemented to some degree.

Which is a miserable experience for leaders and staff alike. Why do so many fail?

We all recognize that change is a Thing. I personally reinvent myself regularly, incorporating new knowledge, lessons, and connections.

So, why is change so hard in an organization?

The Biggest Challenge: Prepping Your People

As in all things, it’s the “people” bit that is the most complex.

And not because your staff are intentionally torpedoing your work, but because life has taught them that change is “hard.” For a lot of people, change is terrible. Awful. No good. The worst.

How do you prepare people that may be already disinclined to embrace your latest and greatest idea?

On one extreme, we can say – get on board or get out. But we can all know how that lands, don’t we?

On the other hand, we can’t go around like a Kindergarten teacher saying – “Okay, everybody ready? Who needs their coat zipped up for them?”

Ugh.

Every person to whom I’ve spoken about managing change emphasizes this point – prepare your people. A lack of readiness spells certain disaster in a landscape already littered with traps.

Communication is key.

But how?! How do you do this effectively? Chat them up while waiting in line at the bathroom (ladies will get this)? Text them inspirational memes? Have more meetings (also lead-balloon worthy)?

In a change environment, rife with trepidation and anxiety, some people want all the information: why we’re making the change, what are the data that support the change, why we decided to go in the direction we chose, what were the other options considered? But then there are some people who will wither under such information. They become overwhelmed and cannot process anything. Neither of these is better or worse, they are just different.

For others, some people will be inclined to support the rest of their team through the transition, and some will only change when they see others change around them. Some people don’t care what everyone else is doing – they are driven more by individual freedom or power.

So, it seems that if you want to be really great at managing big changes, you will have to be able to figure out how your people will react to change.

The Solution: Develop Communication Strategy around Change Types

Using existing and well-tested personality profiles, we have identified four different Change Types that exist within the staff at your organization.

Once you know who is on your team, you can identify ways to motivate them to accept the change, how to find opportunities in each, what and when to communicate – in sum, how to prepare them.

We have grouped Types on a spectrum that includes people driven by those around them versus those driven by self-defined actions. There are people who thrive under more orderly conditions, and those that want more flexibility.

Of the population at large, 65% of people tend to be social creatures that focus on the well-being and actions of those around them.

The four Change Types include:

  • Independents (18% of the population at large)
  • Fixers (22%)
  • Connectors (43%)
  • Organizers (17%)

It takes around 30% buy-in to get an organization moving in a new direction, so if you have a ‘typical’ cross-section of the population, then you have to figure out how to successfully communicate to a range of Types.

You might be saying – Wait, what about Connectors? They are 43% of the population, so if you need 30%, just get them onboard and you’ve got the momentum you need. Unfortunately, Connectors are the most challenging to get marshaled into a new direction.

If you have a “typical” mix of Types, then your best bet is to focus on the Fixers and Organizers. Likely, though, you are heavier on one Type than another.

What Types do you have in your organization?

The Lesson

So, here’s the secret to having a ridiculously high success rate for your change initiatives:

Communicate the right things to the right people at the right time.

While prepping your people for change is a well understood need, the “how” used to be shrouded in mystery – but not anymore. Using our Change Types, you can determine the strategy to move your company in the right direction – which allows your transition to beat the odds and become a success story.

About the Author:

Dr. Rachel MK Headley is in the disaster-avoidance business. As an expert in transitions, she advises, guides, and speaks on how to use the tension around change to unleash your key staff, increase engagement, and improve overall organizational performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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