At its core, change management seeks to instill resilience in an organization’s approach to planned change. In the context of change management, we can speak of resilience from two overall perspectives: the individual and the organization.
The Individual Perspective
Traditionally, the word “resilient” has been applied to describe a person who experiences setbacks and recovers without complaint or falter. These people have mastered the art of “bouncing back.” They can “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’”.
This definition of resilience is theoretically convenient for organizations and institutions of all kinds. Why? Because it lays the burden of recovery from change, setbacks, and disruptions entirely at the feet of the individual. Failure and success are a matter of character. A person either has the grit and wherewithal to tolerate and move successfully through change, or they don’t. Either way, the organization has no responsibility in the matter.
When it comes to individual resilience in the context of an organization, this traditional interpretation is risky. It sets up a paradigm wherein an organization’s ability to withstand, recover from, and thrive beyond change depends on the personalities of the individuals affected by that change. That places the organization at risk because it has essentially forfeited control over its own fate. This approach also fails to account for group dynamics, the impact of leadership, or the organization’s responsibility in contributing to its own success, not to mention the well-being of its people.
In a New York Times article titled “The Profound Emptiness of Resilience,” Parul Sehgal likens “resilient” people in an organization to the mythical phoenix—continually rising from the ashes of disaster—and he asks, “Why rise from the ashes without asking why you had to burn?”
Today’s change management practitioners are evolving their perception of individual resilience to emphasize mindfulness over tolerance and sheer grit. And necessarily so, as more and more workers around the world are, indeed, questioning why they should repeatedly make sacrifices for their employers when evidence is stacking to prove that those sacrifices are not necessary. Should not employers—to adapt Seghal’s metaphor—put out the fire instead?
The Organizational Perspective
The rapid pace and disruptive nature of change in the modern world demand a shift in focus from individual resilience to organizational resilience. More and more, the interdependence between the organization and its workforce is becoming clear. As these relationships and the perception of resilience continue to evolve, there are fundamental approaches organizations can adopt to build workforce strength and resilience in the face of planned change. As you will see, key themes include communication, transparency, and adaptability.
Before the Change
- Communicate a clear vision ahead of the change, especially why the change is coming.
- Identify “the who and the how” (i.e., who the change will affect and how it will affect them).
- Ensure that people understand their role in the change, why it is important, and how they will contribute to the success of the change.
- Empower people to speak up.
During the Change
- Reflect transparency through regular progress updates.
- Respond promptly to concerns expressed.
- Pivot as necessary to respond to mistakes and challenges; communicate what you learned.
- Provide any training necessary to prepare for the change.
After the Change
- Solicit feedback about the change that took place.
- Hold lessons-learned sessions that address pain points raised throughout the process.
- Recognize the efforts of all stakeholders, not just those directly responsible for implementing the change.
Resilience and Change Management vs. Project Management
Whereas project management oversees the tasks involved in the implementation of a planned change, change management is the practice of managing people through change. (“People” refers to any affected stakeholder affected by the change, including employees and customers.) In essence, change management is about managing the behaviors and emotions of the people who are involved in any project or disruption that affects a change within the organization.
The ultimate goal of change management is to build a culture of resilience within the organization. Employing change management best practices and processes sets the organization up to thrive through change. In time, these change management strategies become reflexive, business as usual. The organization becomes so adept at moving through change and responding to disruptions that it becomes part of the culture to do so. Change is no longer a stressor; it’s an agent for growth.
In future blog articles, we’ll take a closer look at common barriers organizations encounter on the pathway to becoming resilient entities that can pivot and adapt to change and disruption, as well as strategies and exercises that can help to break down those barriers.
Does Your Organization Need Help with Resilience and Change Management?
Change isn’t always easy and knowing where to start can be confounding! GSX helps organizations develop innovative talent management and human capital strategies using multiple forms of credentialing and learning solutions. We work with your organization to build and maintain agility and resiliency in your workforce through a fully customizable methodology, advanced readiness tools, and critical analytics that addresses your need to focus on the change concerns of today and tomorrow.
If your organization is struggling to adapt to change in the workplace, Global Skills X-Change can help! Contact us today!