Why are we so afraid of change and how can we manage it?

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Whether your company is big or small, the change transitional or transformational, change is challenging and although, can lead to great success, getting there may not be easy.
The Change Curve designed by Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, is a good way of understanding the psychology of change both personally and professionally:

So why do we find change so hard? 

  • We don’t understand why we need to change; 
  • We think it’s someone else that needs to change;
  • We underestimate the time, cost and effort to change; 
  • We are all too busy to change; and
  • We are too attached to the ‘way it was’.

Digital transformation often touches technology, process, people, customers and culture. When it’s running alongside an old system that needs to be synced and updated with any new technologies, it can be difficult to do while keeping customers and stakeholders happy.
What can you do to ensure change is effected successfully?
While there are a number of things to think about, these are the top 10 points to focus on:

  1. Understand the why – Collect historical data and feedback to help support the need for transformation. Provide a business case with clear KPIs and a Return on Investment (ROI);
  2. Understand the data – People data such as retros, analysis of teams and one-to-ones. Legacy data such as site analytics, customer feedback/complaints and look forward with focus groups, user testing and revisiting/updating user journeys and designs;
  3. Prioritise your Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) – Have measurable, tangible actions so that progress can be seen and achieved;
  4. Communicate with the customer (or key stakeholders) – Demonstrate why there is a need for change and help them understand the challenges that will be faced during the process.  This can be handled by using the quantitative and qualitative information mentioned above;
  5. Set achievable goals along the way – Celebrating incremental successes is both valuable and important in terms of team morale and organisational alignment, so make them simple and reachable;
  6. Have regular check-ins – Look back to go forward and ask yourselves the questions: is it still worth doing?  Are we meeting our goals? If not, look at why and then adapt accordingly;
  7. Use a roadmap with visuals – A roadmap with a timeline and Goals along with some great visuals as to the change, helps with keeping people aligned to the Goals and also allows people to see what has changed and Goals that have been achieved
  8. Don’t waste time –  If something isn’t working, try a different route or move on. You can always go back and try again later when you’re better informed; and
  9. Be transparent – communicate as to why progress and success is happening.

How can you manage change effectively in your organisation?
The culture in which transformation is taking place matters and leadership needs to ensure that they are making space for any change to be effective and most importantly, successful. It pays to take a more holistic approach and consider the impact of strategies on teams, stakeholders and customers during any period of change. It is crucial to focus on a couple of key areas at a time – change is difficult so don’t try to take on the world as you’re more likely to fail that way. Inform the organisation about the change but start with one pilot team. Continue to iterate and improve and once success is visible, highlight this and allow for other teams to adopt new practices and wow.
It may seem obvious, but it pays to be kind. Never assume the need for change hasn’t been well intended. People quite often complain about the way things are done but rarely do they offer new ideas or propose a different way forward. Have an open forum or schedule one-to-ones where you can gather constructive feedback from groups of individuals. Also, be patient – people take time to change and need to ‘feel it’ for themselves (and therefore support it) rather than just taking it at face value. To help with this, you should identify what I call ‘Change Champions’. They should be the key advocates promoting the need for change in the various teams involved through activities like brown bag sessions, talks, hack days etc.
Finally – practice acceptance!  It may take a few attempts to change, or some people may not change and this needs to be addressed. Either way, post-transformation you should have taken away new learnings and information to still view it as a worthwhile experience.
Devon North is one of 101 Ways’ Change Management specialists – connect with her here. If you and your business are planning to /  going through a transformation and need some advice, do not hesitate to get in contact with us and find out how we can help.