Organisational Change Management Volume 2

Summary of Ingredient 1

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" unpredictable and highly contested environments, individual and organisational success require the ability to handle stress and emotions, to adjust to change more quickly and effectively than your competitors - and continually to grow and develop your people and critical organisational resources and capabilities - while the same time running your short-term ' business as usual"..... in order to do this, people need to be able to be in the present with clarity and power, and must envision and buy-into a potential future, and they must also deal with the past, emotions and the grieving process some people must go through before they can let go and move on.

Change is an emotional process. People fear the unknown, being wrong, unaccepted, ridiculed, embarrassed and, therefore, frequently resist change out of fear. Many people have also become understandably cynical about change. We have seen management tools and techniques come and go by the dozens (for example, TQM, BBR, downsizing, outsourcing, CRM) and have come to think, ' this to shall pass'.....if we do not deal with this emotional legacy, we will continue to see slow or unsuccessful change. Not long ago, I conducted a 'quick-and-dirty' study of change practices. When I asked which one factor could help you most in your change efforts if you could do it faster, 15 of the 24 respondents (over 60 percent) answered of overcoming resistance and building commitment. I also asked people to estimate the amount of time that was spent on dealing with the 'emotional side' of change (for example, people's fears). On average, people reported spending about 13 days in dealing with the 'emotional side' of change in successful projects, compared with 2.5 days in unsuccessful projects.

Fortunately, there is something simple that we can do to help foster a more functional emotional climate at work thus allowing people to deal with, and the let go of the past, while being able to focus on the present and work toward the future. The answer is to talk about feelings. We must allow emotions to exist at work. The emotions are normal and their expression is healthy. If you cannot talk about something, you cannot fix it. People need to have mechanisms for processing their emotions. This permission to discuss and process emotions is one on the greatest gifts that coaches and counsellors give.

Processing sometimes is exact opposite of suppressing it. Processing is the exertion of effort to facilitate the flow of energy. Processing means fanning the flames, fully experiencing an emotion or event, allowing the process of an experience full reign. In order to fully experience a problem we need to get it out into the light and into the open. We need to look the problem squarely in the face, confront it and each other's roles in it. Everyone needs to become aware that it is a problem and what its consequences are. People need to know what the alternative or desired state of affairs is, what the goals and the vision on the future are, and how what is happening now and has happened in the past is counter to those goals envision. Also, an emotional support needs to be provided. Quite frequently, emotions are involved when a problem is suppressed. If emotions are not involved, the problem would very likely not have gone 'underground' and been suppressed in the first place. It people are able to fully discuss and confront the issue at the time, it would not have been swept under the carpet and continued to plague us.

In an organisational context, publicly acknowledging and fully experiencing a problem does not suppressed the symptoms. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It certainly is not 'normal' or comfortable to do this at first. However, this allows the system, whether it be individual or organisational, to deal with the issues and provide the opportunity for cure. Of course, this works only with certain types of problems. Fully experiencing the fact that one on their machines has broken down, be it a computer or a lathe, will not help at all. However, this works quite well with non-technical problems (for example, people problems and social-system problems).

The bottom line, therefore, is that we need to encourage people to talk, and to talk about what is important, but not necessarily always comfortable. That means that we have to listen, not defend or justify - just 'shut up' and really listen. This will allow people to process past experiences and emotions. It will allow people to ' get it off their chest'. This will allow them to begin to ' let go' of those feelings and the past - as all pain and hurt in the past - and will allow them to begin to move forward. This may take awhile and it will not necessarily be much fun at first. Once the air is cleared, however, you will see people more and more able to access emotion, express emotion, acknowledged emotion, release emotion, and move on (that is, access, express, acknowledge, release, and move on). This will lead to quicker and more successful change, and to happier, more successful and less stressful lives..."

James Carlopio, 2007


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