October 19, 2009

I've Looked at Change from Both Sides, Now

In the Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides, Now", she looked at clouds, love, and life from both sides (now.) So I thought it would be interesting to look at change from the side of the organization and from the side of the individual in an organization.

From an organization's viewpoint, it is critical to change to survive. There are many outside forces that impact an organization including the economy, technology, environmental, legislative, social trends, demographics, etc. These forces change the environment where organizations do business, so to not change may mean disaster, including the ending of a business. Organizations must also change to meet customer demands and expectations. If a customer is not getting the service or product they want from your company, they have choices and may take their buying dollars to a competitor.

It is not easy to make changes in an organization. Processes, communication methods, working relationships, systems, and tasks and responsibilities may need to change. All change involves the people in an organization.

From an individual's side, change is seldom easy unless you are truly dissatisfied with the status quo. Try an experiment…clasp the fingers of your hands together. Now notice which thumb is over the other one. Now unclasp your hands and clasp them again making sure your fingers and thumb are the opposite way they were before. So how did that feel? Uncomfortable, not normal, awkward? If I asked you to clasp your hands again you probably would do it the way you always have done it. There is really no reason to change the way you do this, so why not go back to your normal way that feels more natural?

As an individual, you may cognitively know that your organization must change with the outside world but that doesn't make it easier. You may really like your job, your colleagues, the way you do your job and where you to it. It may feel uncomfortable with the change and the way a job now needs to be done in a different way, and may keep slipping back to the old way or spend time wishing for the "way it was."

So how does an organization look at both sides when implementing change? Here are a few tips:

· Reason for Change – Share the reason for changes with members of the organization. A great way to do this and involve your employees is to conduct a Force Field Analysis. On one side have employees brainstorm the driving forces for the change (why the change is happening) and other side ask employees to list the barriers to the change.

· Identify Action Plans – Enlist employee ideas in overcoming barriers to the change by having everyone create a personal action plan on how they will implement the change. Individuals will then customize their own change plan further by requesting the information and resources they need to effectively implement the change.

· Reward Early Adopters - See someone who is a role model for the change? Thank the individual and have them share their positive experiences about the change and the benefits they have seen since implementing the change.

What do all three of these ideas have in common? They bring the needs of the organization in line with the needs of the individual to have some control over the change process. The ideas consider change from "both sides" which will lead to a more successful change initiative.

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