If you had a successful business in 2019, you likely experienced some tough setbacks or in other cases, unique opportunities for growth during 2020. Fast forward to 2021, and we’re still working in a very different context than we were before. Most of us are now working either partly or entirely online. Many organizations are either launching or attempting to reinvigorate their DEI initiatives. So, how can we be effective and change-positive stewards for our organizational culture now?
If ever there were VUCA times, we’re in the thick of them now. Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—VUCA. Most of us hate VUCA times. We’re hard wired to crave certainty and sameness. It takes effort to maintain equanimity during VUCA times.
Let’s talk about how we’re hard-wired to crave certainty and sameness. The limbic system is the part of the brain that activates the fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses whenever we’re faced with danger. The decision about what is dangerous happens in milliseconds, far faster than we’re able to consciously process a situation. This is helpful when we’re in real physical danger.
“During a time like this, we’ll either get better as a result of what we choose to do as teams and organizations, or we’ll be diminished for what we fail to do.” – Patrick Lencioni
This quote rings incredibly true for so many of us working to keep our organizations afloat, both amid COVID-19 and in the wake of the terrible injustice that we witnessed so recently in Minnesota and Georgia, among other places. What we do in a time of crisis, in a time when everything feels so difficult–how we show up in business and in life–will profoundly impact where we are three months, six months, a year from now.
What we don’t want is for this cycle to repeat itself, again, 100 years later, as it already has.
We must take action.
There’s a limit to consistency in business today. Whether it’s because the markets are swinging wildly, the fate of the organization is uncertain or changes in technology mean the organization is shifting…change is in the air.
It’s the leader’s responsibility to balance consistency in being both adaptive and responsive in a crisis, making decisions and communicating information as needed. Consistency, or a lack thereof, is just one of the barriers to organizational change.
What matters most is looking at all the factors involved and making changes that are in the best interests of team members and the organization, while keeping an eye on the checkpoints and benchmarks that ensure business continuity.
You have a strategic plan for your organization or your team, but what happens when an unplanned change is upon you and you need to adjust the course?
Communication is key but will be unsuccessful if it lacks direction or a cohesive message. That’s why it’s so important to think about who is delivering the message and how it’s being delivered.
From the moment you begin to plan or implement any type of organizational change, first clarify your objectives. Think of your objectives as the roadmap that will guide you to your intended destination.
Change is happening in every facet of business today, whether we’re prepared for it or not. And, let’s be honest—99% of us weren’t. As a result, employees might be scared, resisting change because they don’t know what it means or how it will impact their own futures. It’s up to you to help reduce resistance to change.
Fear is not a good passenger for any movement, but often leaders forget that the single best tool to combat fear and resistance is communication.
One study found that the single biggest reason for organizational failure to successfully implement any kind of change is “clear and frequent communication.” When combined with your team’s natural resistance to change, this barrier makes sense. In fact, every reason for individual change resistance can be at least partially mitigated through intentional and proactive communication.
Change resistance is natural for humans. Leaders struggle with it because they recognize change will create more work for their teams in the short term, they don’t want to take the reputation hit if the change doesn’t go well, and deep down they fear some loss of control.
Every change is inconvenient and taxing, but change is a necessary rung on the ladder of growth. Especially today, when public buildings are shut down and team members move to remote work in the wake of COVID-19.
Change is one of few certainties in our work lives. Regardless of industry, company size, or leadership team experience, your team or organization is bound to experience several major transitions. If you are in a leadership role, you are in a unique position to anticipate and plan for change so as to maximize its benefits and mitigate disruption in your organization. Why does this matter? Because research tells us that initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. Just increasing your change management rating from “poor” to “fair” means you are three times more likely to meet objectives.
Below are six common barriers to effective organizational change, along with strategies and suggestions on how to manage them.