(from Change Management)
When leaders or managers are planning to manage change, there are five key principles that need to be kept in mind:
The following diagram represents a spectrum of change:
Different people react differently to change
Different people have different preferences for where they like to be on this spectrum. Some people like to be at the STABILITYend of the spectrum - they like things to be the way they have always been. Other people like to be at the CHANGE end of the spectrum - they are always looking for something different and new.
Problems arise when the individual's preferences differ from the situation they find themselves in. That is, if:
- a stability-oriented person finds that circumstances are changing quite rapidly, or
- a change-oriented person finds that everything is the same and there is nothing new
- strong disatisfaction
- negative attitudes towards individuals with preferences at the other end of the spectrum (eg: distrust, dislike)
- resistance (to change, or to the status quo)
- intense emotions
- loss of rational judgement
A famous psychologist called Will Schutz identified three basic needs that people have in interpersonal relations. These basic needs are also of fundamental importance in people's reaction to change:
Everyone has fundamental needs that have to be met
- The need for control
- The need for inclusion
- The need for openness
If a change programme fails to meet the control, inclusion and openness needs of the individuals affected by it then that programme is likely to encounter a range of negative reactions, ranging from ambivalence through resistance to outright opposition.
The relevance of the "loss curve" to a change management programme depends on the nature and extent of the loss. If someone is promoted to a more senior position, the 'loss' of the former position is rarely an issue because it has been replaced by something better. But if someone is made redundant with little prospect of getting a new job, there are many losses (income, security, working relationships) that can have a devastating effect.
Change often involves a loss, and people go through the "loss curve"
There are many variations of the "loss curve". One is known as "Sarah" - that is, the individual experiences (in this order):
- that there can be an initial period where the change does not sink in. For example, feelings may be kept high by the individual convincing themselves that the change is not going to happen.
- that when the loss is realised, the individual hits a deep low. The depth of this 'low' is deepened if the loss is sudden/unexpected.
- that the period of adjustment to the new situation can be very uncomfortable and take a long time. In the case of bereavement, the period of adjustment can be as long as two years.
The relationship between expectations and reality is very important. You can see this in customer relations - if a supplier fails to meet expectations then the customer is unhappy; if the supplier exceeds expectations then the customer is happy.
Expectations need to be managed realistically
To some extent the same principle applies to staff and change. If their expectations are not met, they are unhappy. If their expectations are exceeded, they are happy.
Sometimes, enforced change (eg: redundancies) inevitably involve the failure to meet expectations: there had been an expectation of job security, which has now been taken away.
What leaders/managers have to do, however, is make sure they don't pour petrol on the fire by making promises that can not or will not be kept. Expectations have to be set at a realistic level, and then exceeded (eg: in terms of the degree of outplacement support that will be provided).
In times of significant change rational thought goes out of the window. This means that people often fear the worst - in fact, they fear far more than the worst, because their subconscious minds suddenly become illogical and see irrational consequences. Eg:
Fears have to be dealt with
- Our company is reducing staff, which means...
- They will make people redundant, and...
- I'll be the first to be kicked out, and...
- I'll have no hope of getting another job, and...
- I won't be able to pay the mortgage, so...
- I'll lose the house, so...
- My family won't have anywhere to live, and...
- My wife won't be able to cope, so...
- She'll leave me, and...
- I'll be so disgraced the children won't speak to me ever again.