In my previous post Meaningful Engagement vs. Buy-In: What's the Difference and Why Should I Care?, I posed two questions.
- “… why do we continue to manage change in ways that do not truly engage people and foster conditions where “meaningful engagement” can occur commonly?
- Why do we continue to settle for “buy-in” when we want and actually need much more?"
I suggested five reasons why many organizations settle for buy-in rather than aspire to meaningful engagement. I refer you to the previous post for the specifics (Buy-In vs. Engagement: What’s the Difference and Why Should I Care?). Briefly, though, I argued that buy-in more often triumphs as the objective of change management because it doesn’t require the same level of leader or manager commitment that meaningful engagement does. Aiming for buy-in just doesn’t demand as much time and effort and, in the end, expediency wins.
BUT, and it’s a big but, I argued that tacit buy-in doesn’t produce nearly as much commitment as meaningful engagement and the co-creation of change can. Done right, meaningful engagement in organizational change has the potential to:
- Strengthen everyone’s understanding of the need for and direction of change
- Deepen commitment to the change process and objectives
- Stimulate co-creation of solutions
- Build business literacy and other important business skills
- Accelerate the pace of change, and
- Propel the change beyond the envisioned outcome
In this post, we’ll continue this exploration of meaningful engagement and pose two additional questions.
- How does meaningful engagement produce more than simple buy-in?
- What are the dynamics at work?
Many years ago, I came across a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. It read, “Change imposed is change opposed.” A consulting firm that was promoting its change management practice had placed the ad. It held my attention for a long time. I had been familiar for years with the adage “People support what they help to create.” I’d quoted it many times and thought it conveyed what people leading change needed to know about the essence of change management.
However, this new statement conveyed the idea more directly - even bluntly. It caused me to think about how many organizations go about managing change and it caused me to wonder the following all the more.
If imposing change provokes opposition and people do in fact support what they help to create, then why do we continue to manage change in ways that do not truly engage people and do not foster conditions where “meaningful engagement” can occur commonly? Why do we continue to settle for “buy-in” when we want and need so much more? Continue reading
People prefer stability. It may seem odd to read that as the opening sentence of a blog on the subject of organizational change, but let me say that again. People prefer stability. It’s part of the human condition. For all of the inevitability and necessity of change that we talk about, we actually prefer things to be stable and predictable.
When change occurs – and it always does - we find it disruptive. Exactly how disruptive a change may be is highly individual. The amount of disruption we experience is a function of how much the change affects our individual construct of reality – the routines, preferences, habits, patterns, and ways we understand things. As we all know, this disruption can range from minor inconvenience to the “sky is falling.”
It is axiomatic that the level of change management that must be applied to a change effort is directly proportional to the amount of change people will experience. If this is true, how do you assess the impact of change in order to plan for the level of support? Where do you look and what do you examine?
Since man began to sail the open seas, sailors have used a very simple device to figure out how to take maximum advantage of the wind. Pieces of ribbon or yarn attached to the main mast and to the sides of the jib tell a sailor when the wind is up and how to trim the sails to use them most efficiently to make the best headway. These pieces of ribbon or yarn (three red strips in the photo below) are called a “tell tale” and “tell tales” are one of a sailor’s best friends.
When it comes to organization change, leaders, managers, and change practitioners also have a “tell tale.” It’s called resistance. However, resistance is rarely regarded as anyone’s best friend. Quite the contrary, resistance is usually regarded as something to be “overcome,” “managed,” “mitigated,” “addressed” or otherwise “eliminated.”
What if we thought about resistance and used it differently?