Addressing the Behavioral Aspects of Change
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
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
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
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.
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.
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