Modern organisational change management comes with quite the detailed playbook. This ranges from framed-out change management models to time-worn tips and advice, like identifying “change ambassadors” or “It all starts with a vision”.
But the nature of modern work is changing so fast—becoming more global, more uncertain, more automated and software-dependent—that those seeking success when it comes to strategic change management will need to dig a little deeper.
To help, we’ve uncovered three new trends in change management that have potentially broad implications:
Trend: Rethinking the role of the “resister”.
Why care: As you look through the reams of advice for managers navigating broad change, inevitably the idea of “resisters” surfaces. These are the laggards whose hearts and minds must be won over, the human embodiment of rough edges that must be smoothed down on the path toward change before success can be realised.
But are they truly resistant to change or is something else going on?
Dr. Brené Brown—the best-selling author on workplace leadership who is also known for her wildly popular TED talks—suggests resistance is the symptom, not the disease.
The true driver of resistance to change can be a fear of irrelevancy, which triggers feelings of shame in the workplace. Shame is serious. It’s also not a word you hear very often from change management experts.
If workers fear the coming change will render themselves or their work irrelevant, and no leader seems to understand or address the shame this can trigger, resistance will dig in.
The answer is to listen, not label.
Brown continues: “When people are in difficult situations—fear, anxiety, shame, stress—they’re making up stories about what’s happening. As leaders, the only thing we can do is give space and time to those stories and reality-check them to the best of our ability.”
Don’t single people out as resistors or create unhealthy divisions around who is “with” or “against” any proposed change. Instead, ensure every manager is listening first and creating ongoing safe spaces to reassure individuals of their place in the current—and future—iterations of the organisation.
Trend: Mindfulness meditation
Why care: Mindfulness meditation is long-proven to have a positive impact on our personal well-being, and now more and more research is coming out showing it as a useful tool for helping workers through times of change.
One such study, “Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for work-related wellbeing and job performance: A randomised controlled trial,” in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, found that workers who completed an 8-week meditation intervention “demonstrated significant and sustainable improvements (with strong effect sizes) over control-group participants in levels of work-related stress, job satisfaction, psychological distress, and employer-rated job performance.”
That was the experience at Pacific Blue Cross, a U.S. healthcare company where nearly 25% of workers were at one point enrolled in a mindfulness meditation program. The program was launched during a seven-year project that set out to change, essentially, “all systems, jobs, business processes and how they interacted with their clients.” Talk about significant change.
The result? Nearly 85% felt the specialised mindfulness meditation helped them through the change, but there were more global benefits as well. Writing for the Garrison Institute, the creator of this program at Pacific Blue Cross, Wendy Quan, shares: “Participants reported being more aware of their emotions and behaviors, having a higher ability to manage themselves through change, increased calmness, positive feelings and feeling in control.”
Why care: Back to Dr. Brown: Vulnerability, in her writing and speaking, is a massively underrated and misunderstood management attribute. She says: “If you don’t understand vulnerability, you cannot manage and lead people. If you’re not showing up vulnerably as a leader, you can’t expect anyone to follow you—period.”
But how can vulnerability become a useful tool in organisational change management?
For one, leaders need to drop the stoic approach once and for all. Researchers at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney discovered the power of authenticity and vulnerability when setting out to learn from top leaders and develop some specific points of view on effective leadership, which they expressed as seven distinct metaphors.
Vulnerability plays a major role in their “Snowball” metaphor of leadership, among others:
“The snowball represents a cycle of mutual accountability that creates momentum for change. It starts rolling when a leader opens himself up to the scrutiny of subordinates and asks for their support. This act of humility is seen as courageous and inspires others to follow suit. As more members of the team join the process (and those causing drag are removed), the snowball becomes more tightly compacted and almost impossible to stop.”
Illustrating this, they interviewed a managing director of a German beauty company who came to the realisation his directive leadership style was reinforcing the passive culture he hoped to change. Only by making himself vulnerable to the team—and recognising his role in why the change was needed—did change actually start to happen.
In fact, each business leader they interviewed experienced “radical improvement” in 360-degree feedback plus gains in “financial performance, customer approval, and employee engagement” but only once they dropped “masks” or took the time to stand outside themselves. In other words, made the decision to become vulnerable.
There are, of course, more trends in organisational change management. Take time to explore what new approaches you might need to use for your change management program.
Organsational change management remains crucial to any company (or leader’s) long-term success.
Here’s how one group of researchers from Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, UK, framed it in a highly cited academic work:
“Change is an ever-present feature of organisational life, both at an operational and strategic level. Therefore, there should be no doubt regarding the importance to any organisation of its ability to identify where it needs to be in the future, and how to manage the changes required [for] getting there.”
Or, to think about it from a loftier perch, let’s turn to Albert Einstein:
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
For more information on how PM-Partners can help you and your business with organisational change management, contact us today on +65 6818 5771.