Friday, July 9, 2010

Dynamics of Sustainable Change for Leaders

Change is never instantaneous. The change process happens in stages, for both groups and individuals.  The five stages, represented by Roman numerals (figure 1), stand for the following:

Stage I = Discovery: Don’t know what they don’t know.
Stage II = Discomfort: Don’t like all this change.
Stage III = Development: Don’t know if we will ever get there.
Stage IV = Demonstration: Don’t want to go back to the old way.
Stage V = Defend: Don’t want organization changes to derail the new way of doing business.

Each stage has characteristics and leadership needs that change as you progress. Many leaders miss this point and struggle when an individual’s needs change.
Let us look at Stage I Discovery, where the participants are hearing about the changes for the first time and trying to get a clear picture of what is about to occur. There is some excitement because this is something new but limited understanding of what it is. Think about the last time you were party to a new piece of software or a new tool, at first, what feelings did you have? Now as we move through the stages think about how you traveled through them with your change. Interestingly in the beginning you will typically see a bump in performance of the systems or process you are about to change based on the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect states that as we focus attention on the system, it will perform at a higher level due to that attention. As a leader in this stage you need to provide clear direction and encourage the enthusiasm that exists by providing as much information as possible.  Ensure that you tell those who will be affected by the change about what is in it for them and why the success of the change should be important.
As they move into stage II, discomfort will occur. Some even call this stage the “valley of despair.” Here the affected will begin to complain about the process and the changes. They will find reasons to miss meetings that pertain to the changes and will profess their love for the old way of doing business. This is by far the toughest stage and the most important from a leadership stand point. The leader must support the change in decree and deed. We will talk about more of the requirements of this stage in the leadership section but the key point to remember is that leaders must show focused support and unwavering direction.
As the Development Stage III progresses, and the affected individuals begin to develop confidence, the results and the return on investment will begin to materialize. This is a stage where the leader no longer has to be as directive in style and can assume a role that looks more like a coach.   Key traits of this stage include individuals no longer asking for solutions but instead asking to bounce ideas off of the change leaders. The leader will need to focus on highlighting the successes that have occurred and using them to keep building the confidence of the group.
In Stage IV Demonstration, the group or individual has reached the level where they can demonstrate the new way of doing business to others. They are gurus if you will because they no longer need anyone to tell them what to do our how to do it. They still need the change leaders to support them but now it is by giving them opportunities to shine. One key warning for leaders is to not overload these folks just because they can do it or they will burn out. This is a common problem at this stage.
In Stage V Defend, the team is defending the change against both entropy and organizational changes. All organizations have some variability in the results they receive from improvement initiatives. This occurs naturally as leadership changes or production requirements fluctuate. In figure one Stage V, We show good sustainable change as a dampened sine wave. It is shown in green. As the sine wave undulates the process adherence varies and the return on investment also changes. In a facility that has not addressed each of the 5 elements of change, the process can look more like the red or blue lines. In each of these cases, the return on investment expected and shown as the shaded green area is taken away due to the organizations ability to adhere to the new business processes that have been put into place. Leaders at this stage are less important if the change process has been well executed and ingrained into the new culture but that does not mean that they should not be involved at all. Leaders should be monitoring progress and sustainability through the use of metrics or balanced score cards while making sure new individuals in the organization get a proper on boarding into the new business processes. Continuous improvement efforts should be part of stage five to off-set any losses and keep a focus on sustainable change.
Each of the stages has its own unique issues and solutions. However, if you stay focused on your people and apply the correct leadership styles, you can help them move through the process in the most expedient manner while making the project results materialize quicker.

1 comment:

  1. This is good and relevant information that can have positive impact on any change initiative. The subject of change management is not always easy to grasp in technical organizations. It is truly a good thing when otherwise technical minds learn the benefits of basic change management principles.