Understanding individual behavior toward change
Humans demonstrate a range of emotions and reactions to change. Common reactions include resistance, fear, and enthusiasm, and these reactions can shift over time. The widely referenced Change Curve model defines four key stages: shock/denial, anger/fear, acceptance, and commitment. There’s a certain “finality” associated with each of these terms, so when I work with organizations on change management, I refer to the stages with terms that feel more flexible: awareness, resistance, willingness to change, learning new skills, practice, and maintaining the change.
To help individuals through the awareness and resistance stages, you should consider ways to better engage them, so they understand the changes to come, why they are happening, and probably most importantly, “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM). During the “willingness to change” stage, you may want to implement changes in small steps with plenty of one-on-one coaching, so as not to overwhelm. These targeted change management activities should continue throughout the evolution.
Leveraging an assessment to gauge employees’ fear of change and perceptions of past change initiatives will provide valuable insight into how each individual will react to the current change, so you can proactively manage those reactions.
What is organizational culture and how does it influence individual behavior?
Organizational culture is a set of values, beliefs, and rules that influence personal behavior in your organization. For example, some organizations cultivate a learning culture, in which employees are encouraged to participate in continuous education opportunities, try new things, and innovate. An organization with a learning culture is one where individuals are more likely to readily adopt new ways of thinking and working. Another example is a culture of engaged and proactive leaders. Leadership is the most influential factor in organizational culture, because leaders set the purpose and vision for the change. They also inspire others and demonstrate enthusiasm for change.
Positively or negatively, organizational culture will impact business initiatives and the ability to adapt to changes. That’s why it is important to understand your organization’s culture, and more specifically your organization’s tolerance for change, or more formally, organizational change maturity, as measured by a change readiness assessment.
What is a change readiness assessment?
The primary focus of a change readiness assessment is to reduce risks associated with organizational change and help address potential barriers. Typically, the assessment defines how change impacts individuals as they transition from current state to their future state of personal readiness.
According to Prosci, the five capabilities that define change management maturity include: leadership, application, competencies, standardization, and socialization. The readiness assessment can provide many insights that, if acted upon, increase the likelihood of successful change adoption, including increased stakeholder buy-in and support of the change. For example, the assessment may indicate that your organization’s previous change initiatives were perceived as unsuccessful; therefore, clear communication of change goals and milestones will be needed to launch another change initiative.