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Behavioral Aspects of Change ...


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Many occupational hazards of adult life will be greatly alleviated by massage:

  • aching back and shoulder after a long office stint
  • exhaustion or overstrained muscles from physical labor or excessive exercise
  • circulatory problems from too little exercise by sedentary workers.
Massage can benefit you right down to the cellular level!

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Addressing the Behavioral Aspects of Change

How will business' ration, create and manage change to improve a strategy execution or their needs?

Five key elements, when understood and intelligently used, will radically improve overall enterprise change results. Conversely, failing to consider any single element will greatly diminish the chances of success.

Any business change to management policy or style is essentially about understanding and affecting behaviors. Because the standard human response to most change is predominantly emotional, those people initiating a change must learn to manage instinctive reactions. This is made more difficult by a natural reluctance to confront everyday normal human emotions in the workplace. The standard approach to encouraging behavioral change is to lay out facts and appeal to the intellectual processes of stakeholders who actually has to alter their normal process to accommodate the change. This step must be taken, but if used exclusively, avoids the basic explanation as to why the adjustment is important a overall operation.  It excludes an explanation to the true drivers of change and is seldom effective. This article introduces my opinion of the five elements that, if taken collectively, provide a proven, psychologically based tool suite for managing the behavioral implications of change.

The Five Elements of Change

The Imperative is the case for change. It can be positively motivated, such as the desire to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime market opportunity, or negatively motivated, as in the case where a firm must either change or cease to exist. Irrespective of management motivation, those affected by change will find it personal and painful and as a result will resist it. However, when there is a clearly understood imperative, commitment to the necessary change will eventually and inevitably follow. Enterprises that prove the imperative early, successfully communicate it, and consistently reinforce it will experience significantly less resistance to change.

Leaders instigate and sustain change. They recognize the imperative. They possess the discipline to prove it and the courage to act on it. They have the power to enforce change efforts at all levels and the stamina and tenacity to withstand widespread criticism and resistance. They understand the dynamics of change, recognizing how and when to orchestrate it. They drive pressures and rewards as deep into the organization as necessary to sustain the initiative. They empathize. They reject cagey communications and "need-to-know" omissions, communicating frequently, honestly and frankly with those affected.

Levers are the tools that change leaders employ to encourage desired behaviors and achieve required outcomes. The levers most commonly employed are changed processes, people practices, technology, environment, products/services or structure. Positive/negative peer pressure, unambiguous changes in the external environment or marketplace, and customer feedback, relationships or encounters are also viable levers.

Affected Agents are the individuals and groups affected by change. They are the constituents who must support and adapt to the change initiative. Employees are often not the only affected agents to consider. Many massive change efforts also affect customers, suppliers, strategic partners, stockholders or the community in which the enterprise operates (see Improving Change Execution by developing stakeholders ).

Buoys are stabilizers. They are the life preservers that affected agents cling to while buffeted by massive change. They are sources of pride, camaraderie and consistency the strengths leaders exploit, both as foundations for the change initiative and to demonstrate that the enterprise is capable of emerging victorious from the planned transition. They provide a positive and common frame of reference that helps sustain people through phases of chaos and uncertainty. They might include core competencies, strategic relationships, a unifying culture or values, a strong sense of community or a rallying point such as a compelling strategy or a widely accepted imperative.

The Role of the Five Elements in a Change Initiative

Only when the five elements of change are fully recognized and understood can comprehensive, tailored change programs be instituted. The power of these elements lies in leadership's freedom to deploy them in a manner directly pertinent to the enterprise's own, unique business circumstances, strengths and weaknesses. No two deployments will be exactly alike. Depending on the nature and scope of the change initiative in relation to the organization's capabilities, leadership may determine that some of the elements are not pertinent for a given change initiative, or that some elements will require greater emphasis than others. This is reasonable. The key to successful change is to proactively consider and evaluate all five elements in creating change initiative project plans and to include explicit tactics related to each element when and where it makes sense for the business. This implies having an awareness of the organization's capacity for change. Assessments may be required in advance of the change initiative to determine which elements will require the greatest emphasis, given the scope of the particular change initiative. The tool suite should not be utilized in lieu of a legitimate, well-considered project plan or as a default plan in and of itself. Rather, it is a framework for facilitating the development of a more robust change execution strategy.

Tactics for Employing the Five Elements of Change

Each element is associated with a few, simple mandates that can be translated into an infinite variety of creative tactics for achieving the desired change. Figure 1 illustrates these mandates and provides examples of the tactics that might be employed.

Figure 1

%img Sample Change Management Tactics

Incorporating these mandates and similar tactics into a change strategy and execution plan will ensure that the environment in which the firm operates is conducive to change and that the traumatic emotional effects on those involved are minimized.

In Summary

Managing enterprise-level change is an undeniably complex task that is made more difficult by the deeply personal reactions of those affected. Leaders hoping to achieve massive change must understand the psychological dynamics of organizational behavior and embrace the five elements as comprehensive mechanisms for addressing human responses to change.

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