Since man began to sail the open seas, sailors have used a very simple device to determine 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 the wind effectively to make the best headway. These pieces of ribbon or yarn (three red strips in the photo below) are called a telltale and telltales are one of a sailor’s best friends.
When it comes to making headway in organization change, leaders, managers, and change practitioners also have a telltale. It’s called resistance. However, resistance is rarely regarded as anyone’s best friend. To the contrary, resistance is usually regarded as something to be “overcome,” “managed,” “mitigated,” “confronted,” or otherwise vanquished.
What if we reframed resistance and approached it differently?
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Effective change doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of careful planning and thoughtful execution. Leaders play a pivotal role in change because they possess legitimate power to sanction the change, establish the vision, provide direction and resources, and hold organizational members accountable. Everyone looks to the leader for guidance and that person must model the way for the rest of the organization.
Change would be a much tidier process if that were all it took – an effective leader who knows what to do and how to do it and is at the front leading the charge.
But as important as the leader’s role is, it isn’t the leader who ultimately executes change. Change (from simple to complex) is always a matter of people in impacted areas making the transition from the way things are now to the way they’re supposed to be in the future.
Transition at the people level involves, among other things:
- Answering their questions about why and what it will mean for them
- Describing how things will be in the future
- Helping them understand whether or not they will be in that future
- Involving them to co-create that future
- Providing a credible plan for moving forward that speaks to them at their level
- Communicating frequently and reliably about what’s happening now and what will happen next
- Learning new skills and applying new knowledge
- Becoming part of a new work group
How does this all get done? Who is leading the charge on this? More to the point, who should be leading the charge on this? Continue reading →
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?
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