speed of change

Managing at the Speed of Change


By Daryl R. Conner

  1. The Nature of Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
  2. Realize that control is what we seek.  Ambiguity is what we fear and avoid.  When the challenges we encounter are matched equally with our capabilities, we are comfortable with the change and we are usually able to predict what the outcome of a situation will be. 
    • Are able to exercise some degree of control over what happens during the implementation of change.  We become disoriented when we are unable to meet our control needs.
    • Are able to assimilate change at a speed commensurate with the pace of the events taking place around us.  We feel the most vulnerable to change when we are surprised that we are surprised.
    • Understand the micro implications of macro organizational changes.  Until people see a personal connection between their own behavior and resolution of the organizational or macro issue, the problem is simply an intellectual exercise and not personally relevant.
    • Face a total assimilation demand from the micro, organizational, and macro transition in your life that is within your absorption limits.  Assimilation is the process we use to adjust to the positive or negative implications of a major shift in our expectations.  The number of assimilation points that you pay for a given change depends on the degree to which that change matches what you expect.
  1. The Process of Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Approach change as an unfolding or fluid phenomenon rather than a binary (either/or) event.  There are three phases of change: present state, transition state and desired state.
    • Accept that you will either pay for getting what you want or you will pay for not getting what you want and the payment may come early or late-but change is expensive, and you will pay.  Orchestrating pain messages throughout an institution is the first step in developing organizational commitment to change.
    • Believe the status quo is far more expensive than the cost of the transition.  Keeping major change alive is only possible when the pain of the present state exceeds the cost of the transition state.  The process of not changing is unacceptably high.  Major change requires a burning platform…. The status quo is prohibitively expensive….and decision makers have a very high level of resolve…a business imperative.
    • Are attracted to remedies you see as attainable…desirable, accessible actions that will solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity.  Resilient (winners) are able to manage change at a speed that allows them to effectively implement the human and technical aspects of transition on time and within budget.  Winners are tenacious…they initiate and successfully implement change.
    • Are presented with changes in a manner that takes into account your frame of reference.  Managing effective transitions does not allow for dealing with a single reality: it involves managing multiple realities as seen through various people’s fears hopes, and aspirations.  Winners understand the micro implications of macro organization changes.  Change management is perception management.
  1. The Roles of Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Understand and can recognize the key roles in a change project.  A sponsor is the individual or group who has the power to sanction or legitimize change.  An agent is the individual or group who is responsible for actually making the change.  A target is the individual or group who must actually change.  An advocate is the individual or group who wants to achieve a change but lacks the power to sanction it.
    • Are familiar with the effective operation of linear, triangular, and square relationship configurations.  Sponsors cannot pass on sanctioning power to people who do not hold authority status with the targets.
    • Understand the general requirements associated with strong sponsorship.  A good sponsor must have: power, pain, vision, resources, the long view, sensitivity, scope, a public role, a private role, consequence management techniques, monitoring plans, a willingness to sacrifice and persistence.
    • Recognize that a change must be clearly and strongly sanctioned by those in initiating and sustaining sponsorship positions.  Sponsors must have resolve.  Black holes form where there are local managers who do not adequately support change, the targets below them will not fully support the transition.  Cascading sponsorship is the remedy.  With cascading sponsorship, initiating sponsors enlist the commitment of other key managers below them to support the change throughout the organization. 
    • Perceive that the rhetoric of change is consistent with meaningful consequences.  Any time there is a gap between strategic rhetoric and local (personal) consequences, targets will always be more responsive to the consequences.
  1. Resistance to Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Understand the basic mechanisms of human resistance.  Resistance to change is a natural part of the process.
    • View resistance as a natural and inevitable reaction to the disruption of expectations.  When you attempt to manage change, you lack the luxury of a single, focused reality.  The change process is composed of shifting images, interpretations, and perspectives.  To appreciate how another person reacts to change, you must be able to put yourself inside his or her shoes.
    • Interpret resistance as a deficiency of either ability or willingness.
    • Encourage and participate in overt expressions of resistance.  Dissent is not merely allowed; it is an obligation that we owe each other and the company.  Resilient people and organizations avoid wasting the energy and potential learning opportunities that occur when resistance is expressed covertly. 
    • Understand that resistance to positive change is just as common as resistance to negatively perceived change and that both reactions follow their own respective sequence of events, which can be anticipated and managed.  The stage through which people who feel they are trapped in a change are: stability, immobilization, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.  The five phases of positive change are: uninformed optimism, informed pessimism, hopeful realism, informed optimism and completion.  Informed pessimism always follows uniformed optimism.  Informed pessimism is a doubting of the change decision; checking out is a withdrawal from the change decision.  The pessimism does not suddenly disappear.  It lessens and you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    • To manage change well you must use sober selling as your approach.  You must intentionally tell targets what the true costs of the change will be.  One reason why so many change projects fail is that people have unrealistic expectations.
  1. Committing to Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Realize the sequence of steps involved in committing to something new.  The stages in the commitment process are preparation (contact and awareness), acceptance (understanding and positive perception) and commitment (installation, adoption, institutionalization and internalization).
    • Are provided with the time and appropriate involvement to become emotionally as well as intellectually committed to change.  People respond to change at different intellectual and emotional rates.  Don’t assume commitment will be generated without a plan of action.  Keep in mind that building commitment is a developmental process.
    • Are sponsored by people who invest the time, resources, and effort to assure specific plans are developed that will increase the likelihood people will commit to change.  Slow down to increase the speed.
    • Understand that commitment to a major change is always expensive and that you either pay for achieving it or pay for not having it.  Commitment is expensive; don’t order it if you can’t pay for it.  Either build commitment or prepare for the consequences.
  1. Culture and Change.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Understand the powerful effect culture has on the outcome of any major change effort.  Culture establishes a unique set of formal and informal ground rules for how we think, how we behave, and what we assume to be true.  It is made up of prevailing beliefs, behaviors and assumptions.  It is shared and it is developed over time.  Culture is an essential element of the equation for running the business.  Culture can be managed and orchestrated.
    • Know that major changes introduced into an organization must be supported by the organization’s overall culture and its local subculture.
    • Recognize that when counter culture changes are introduced, you must alter the existing culture to support the new initiative.  Architectural development of corporate culture is the conscious design and maintenance of a set of specific beliefs, behaviors and assumptions.  A key element to enhancing resilience and minimizing the chance of dysfunctional behavior is to actively manage your organization’s culture.
    • Recognize that cultural traits must be consistent with what is necessary for driving new decisions, or those decisions may not be successfully implemented.
    • Whenever a discrepancy exists between the current culture and the objectives of your change, the culture always wins.
  1. Synergy.  You can enhance resilience if you:
    • Recognize how important synergy is to the success of change.  When workers feel that they are in a foxhole situation with the boss at their side and that success depends on working together, then synergy can occur.  The four stages of synergy are:
      • interaction (communicate effectively, listen actively and generate trust and credibility)
      • appreciative understanding (create an open climate, delay negative judgments, empathize with others and value diversity)
      • integration (tolerate ambiguity and be persistent, be pliable, be creative, and be selective), and
      • implementation (strategize, monitor and reinforce, remain team focused and update).
    • Are willing (common goals and interdependence) and able (empowerment and participation) to join with others in efforts that produce a 1+1>2 equation.  Empowerment and participative management are the two key abilities people must possess to operate synergistically with one another.  Empowered employees are those who (are given the opportunity to) provide true value to the organization, influencing the outcome of management’s decisions and actions.
    • Can listen to, value, integrate with, and apply perspective different from your own.  Winners must:
      • establish prerequisites
        • build motivation (common goals and interdependence) and
        • build abilities (empowerment and participative management) that are the foundation for synergy
      • support permeability (help people express an be open to learning new ideas, perspective, meanings, values, feelings, behaviors, and attitudes they would not otherwise accept or exchange)
      • encourage paradoxical thinking (help people live through the frustration and confusion that occurs when they attempt to merge apparently contradictory ideas, view points, feelings or attitudes)
      • facilitate creativity (teach people to value the integration of opposing views, causing shift from “either/or” opposing relationships t “both/and” supportive relationships)
      • structure discipline (use the new, mutually supported concepts to pursue specific objectives, assign task responsibilities, an stick to schedule until the change is fully accomplished). 
    • Individuals must demonstrate the skills to operate in an empowered manner and the organization must demonstrate its readiness to appropriately involve employees in change-related decisions affecting their work.
  1. Resilience.
    • Resilience is the practical intelligence that comes from valuing adaptability and believing that preparation and choice allow us to influence our future.  When resilient people face the ambiguity, anxiety, and loss of control that accompany major change, they tend to grow stronger from their experiences rather than feel depleted by them.  Resilient people increase the number of assimilation points they have available, thus raising their future shock threshold and they minimize the number of assimilation points needed for the successful implementation of any one change.
    • Opportunity-oriented, or type O, people recognize the dangers but position change as a potential advantage to be exploited, rather than a problem to be avoided.  Type-O people have a strong life vision that serves as a source of meaning and as a beacon guiding them through the turmoil and adversity of change.  Type-O people view life as a set of constantly shifting interacting variable that produce an escalating number of combinations that are a necessary (if unpleasant) part of the life process.
    • Type-O people protect their assimilation capacity by not engaging in change effort that requires resources they don’t possess.  They also recognize when to ask for help and they rely on nurturing relationships.
    • Type-O people do not anticipate that life will unfold in a logical, easily rationalized manner with clear-cut, right-or-wrong options.  They are able to achieve balance.
    • Characteristics:
      • Display a sense of security and self-assurance.
      • Have a clear vision of what they want to achieve.
      • Demonstrate a special pliability when responding to uncertainty.
      • Develop structured approaches to managing ambiguity.
      • Engage change rather than defend against it.
    • Attributes:
      • Positive: view life as a challenging but opportunity filled.
      • Focused: clear vision of what is to be achieved.
      • Flexible: pliable when responding to uncertainty.
      • Organized: applies structure to help manage ambiguity.
      • Proactive: engages change instead of evading it.
    • Managing the structure of change
      • Determining the level of baseline resilience that exists among key people involved in the change.
      • Identifying which of the seven support patterns will provide the greatest leverage for the desired outcome.
      • Recognizing which of the principles from these support patterns can be most useful in reinforcing baseline resilience.
      • Applying the correct resilience principles with the appropriate resilience characteristics to bolster the basic strength of an individual’s or group’s overall resilience pattern.