Cerah Associates is active in the areas of Consultancy and Learning. In this blog I like to write about another subject as old as the road is to Rome i.e. change.
In the past 30 years I have been involved in approximately 1 or 2 change efforts a year in either the private – or public sector. If I look back on some of those experiences, some of these change efforts went very well + delivered good results, some were quite good or ok and some were considerably less.
With respect to the lesser ones, what do I recall? Often it was not clear to people why to change at all, it was considered not needed, or I heard ‘’we are doing it already!’’. I also recall situations that people were profoundly clinging to the past, and that they would like to restore the past images and realities the sooner, the better. This is really a situation of not being able to ‘’let go’’, people just wouldn’t move on. I have also seen leaders of the organization wanting to go too fast, they were kind of on their own on the battlefield, others were far behind. Often there was good thinking and talking, but no doing whatsoever. Lastly I have seen that financial implications of change efforts were not always in the forefront of the minds of those involved, which made it difficult to prioritize which initiatives, in the end, needed to be selected and executed in the future.
Against the background of the above, allow me to share some ‘’change’’ related thoughts. In my opinion, simplistically, when dealing with change we have the why, the who and the what? Here it goes ….
In my working life to date, I have always been able to distinguish 3 different whys, i.e. 1. desperation 2. anticipation and 3. aspiration. It is straight forward isn’t it? We either need to change because of despair – ‘’there is no alternative really’’, or because we anticipate – ‘we may see some challenges ahead of us, or lastly, because we aspire – ‘’we have a positive desire to do so’’. It is important that all those involved in the change effort have a clear understanding and comprehension of the ‘why change?’, and what is the sense of urgency. It helps if all involved have the same sense of urgency, however it is not necessary (and likely) that all involved have that same sense of urgency. If there are different degrees of senses of urgencies, that is ok too, however all involved need to be aware about these differences and each one involved in the change effort needs to want being involved realizing his/her own driver being either desperation, anticipation or aspiration.
Who + emotions of those involved
Most of you will know ‘’SARAH’’, i.e. the emotional phases we may go through when confronted with ‘negative change’’. First we may feel ‘surprised’, then get ‘angry’, and subsequently we may ‘reject’ what has been thrown at us. Here we are in a rock bottom negative state of mind. Over time however, we may start to see some light at the end of the tunnel and start to slowly on ‘’accept’’ the new situations as is. We even may start to see some positives, on which we start to build our outlook re the future, we crawl to the ‘hope’ phase. The above will be known to most of us. The ‘’power’’ of realizing SARAH is that we are aware that different people will be at different phases at different times, and that different people will go through all these 5 phases with different speed. Some will go through this all the phases incredibly fast, some will do this very slow and others at any speed in between. The other ‘’power’’ of realizing SARAH is that we can hook to these different emotional phases as good starting points, for stakeholder management approaches. People who are mentally in different phases, will need to be approached differently (communication, wording, explanation, speed etc).
The emotional phases of Sarah