“Change is hard.”
After hearing this comment several times this week (and even using it myself), I began to reflect on the truth of the statement. Is it true that organizational change is always hard? And if so, how can we make it easier, since we know it’s imperative to organizational success?
There is little debate that organizations that are open to change have a competitive advantage. Yet at the same time, change initiatives have a low success rate. A 2015 article published by McKinsey & Company claims that 70% of change initiatives fail. Whether or not this percentage is exact, the reality is that most change initiatives have a limited chance of success.
Organizations that are open to change have a competitive advantage.
I believe one of the best ways to tackle this dismal statistic is to create a workplace culture that anticipates and even welcomes ongoing organizational change. We cultivate this kind of culture on a practical level by continually striving to improve processes and develop new products and services. But we also cultivate it on an environmental level when we challenge our beliefs about change, speak positively about it, and empower people to grow.
Here are some ideas to help you normalize change in your workplace:
1. Challenge your beliefs about change.
We hold a lot of preconceived notions about change. Many of these assumptions don’t help us embrace the reality that change should be our constant state – not just a one-time initiative. Even the phrase “change initiative” can lead us to think about change as a program or project rather than what we need to do to grow and improve. One way to shift our thinking about organizational change is to encourage a growth mindset.
One way to shift our thinking about organizational change is to encourage a growth mindset.
2. Cultivate a growth mindset.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck outlines the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is limiting, rooted in the idea that intelligence and ability are fixed. It can easily lend itself to complacency, where we settle for mediocrity and avoid improvements because we lack confidence in our own or others’ capacity for growth. When a fixed mindset takes over, our ability to deliver quality services or products suffers and, ultimately, we become irrelevant.
The opposite is a growth mindset, where we believe intelligence and ability are not fixed. With a growth mindset, we are eager to learn, seek out opportunities to improve, and are inspired by constructive feedback. It recognizes that both people and organizations are not static – rather they are able to learn to do new things.
3. Shift how we talk about organizational change.
When we talk about organizational change, words like “resistance” and “opposition” typically spring to mind. But do people always oppose change? I think the answer is no, we don’t. In fact, we regularly embrace change. For example, getting married, graduating, or having a baby are all big life changes that we usually meet with anticipation and celebration, not resistance and opposition.
When we embark on a change in the workplace, we should meet it with anticipation for positive outcomes. This starts by asking ourselves, Why is the change needed? and What result are we hoping for? Being able to answer these questions will create a culture where change is appreciated and seen as something that creates a better work experience.
4. Empower people to speak up and bring their ideas forward.
The people in our organization know their roles and the clients they interact with from the inside out. If we desire ongoing change to be a part of our culture, we should empower staff to make the changes they see are needed. They will be the ones who will be required to invest in change and monitor the effects. In addition, when people feel like they are involved in or even leading change, they will be more likely to embrace it and help make it a success.
Empowering staff to make changes starts with encouraging people to speak up and bring forward their own ideas for organizational change, from adjustments to their own workflow to new product ideas. Consider providing regular time for people to discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and what could be improved. Making time for these discussions reinforces the idea that change is welcomed in your organization.
If we desire ongoing change to be a part of our culture, we should empower staff to make the changes they see are needed.
5. Recognize that performance isn’t the only important metric.
Many organizations focus on performance: having the most sales, closing the most deals, meeting deadlines, making the most calls, and so on. Although performance is important and we need to recognize and celebrate successes, we also need to affirm the value of efforts, learning experiences, and even missteps when creating a culture of ongoing change.
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Wise words from an ancient source that are especially applicable in today’s competitive market. When we embrace organizational change as a constant, we will be open to new ideas and better able to respond when things don’t go as planned. This will create an environment where we can pivot quickly and without a sense of panic, because we have created a culture where change is a part of “the way we’ve always done things.”
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