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This is part 3 of the 4 blog series by Bob Black on Implementing Change across Complexities

For background on the case study, visit Part 1 of the blog by clicking here.

As a change team, we had a “Eureka!” moment when we reflected on the people-first intervention from our main process guy. This led us into some reflections regarding the senior management team, the managers of the affected functions and departments and the individuals faced with changes to their day to day jobs.

I’m a big fan of the work done by Maslow and Herzberg on motivation, satisfiers and dis-satisfiers around job content and personal/organisational achievement.

I also know that this places me as very “old school”. At least this is what some of my change team called me (I’m sure there was much worse!).

I’ve applied both Maslow and Herzberg’s models for significant practical benefits in many organisations, across geographies.

One of my “organisational change readiness tests” when I start working with people is asking them if they have heard of Maslow and/or Herzberg. Almost everyone says they have heard of one or both. Now for the second question…this is where it gets interesting!

The second question is: how many use the work of Maslow and Herzberg in their organisational change work?  Their answer, almost 100% is….never!

This was the response I received from my change team…”never”.  This was somewhat disappointing at least for me.  Back to the process guy and his insightful observation about people; when we as a team discussed how were we going to manage the surprising responses received so far; a very interesting element emerged. Most of the responses from the senior management team through the organisational levels were based to some extent on fear of change and how it would affect them as individuals and how would/could they cope with the changes!

Once we had discussed this and appreciated that we, as the change team, were in a much more advanced mental state for accepting the change (Bridges Transition Model applies here) we were able to construct a significantly richer and more robust change communication plan, engagement actions and more measured responses to surprising reactions to the planned changes.

 Back to Maslow for a moment. In his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ ranging through Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem to Self-Actualisation, each level has an inherent element for a potential “fear factor”. By applying the ‘Hierarchy of Needs', to our change plans we focused on each level ensuring we addressed the potential motivational actors as well as the potential "fear factors". Then using Herzberg’s Two Factor Approach (potential motivators & potential dis-satisfiers) helped us  to see our planned changes from the perspective of those affected by the change i.e. for us as a change team, any change was essentially seen as positive. This can lead a team into “group-think” with significant potential problems.

As an example, changes to processes/working practices/methods e.g. moving from Waterfall to Agile for project delivery could be positive. But maybe not so much if an individual was seen by their peers and management as the “Waterfall Expert”, enjoyed a solid reputation for project delivery and now faced a personal and method transition to Agile where more people had more experience than them. For those whose reputations were at risk, who required to transition to new methods and skills these can be seen as at least motivating and threatening in equal measure.

In our Change Readiness Communication Programme, we made sure we addressed both motivation & fear in equal measure. This meant we needed to challenge ourselves as the change team not to see everything in the change roll-out as a positive. Our job as change agents was to ensure we advanced the upside of the planned changes while being receptive to the potential “fear factors”, providing reality-based replies to these.   

Taking this approach helped to build credibility with those affected by the changes. It demonstrated in a real way that the change team were listening, had heard and responded appropriately. This did not mean everything was easy, quite the opposite in some situations. However, it increased the chances of change implementation in practice, over time.

To help us as a change team, we developed something of a change management delivery mantra: find the fear/fear factors, face them, work together with those affected creating practical ways forward to the required change outcomes.

This seems very simple, but our experience was that fear/fear factors ran through the organisation top to bottom, in lesser or greater degree. Now most people we worked with denied fear/fear factors initially though they became more “honest” about these when we built collective trust.

 

 

 

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