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The Human Side to a Change Initiative

The Human Side to a Change Initiative

Traditional change management no longer withstands the test of time. Organizations fail because of rigid structures and employees not accepting the “old-school” operational change management measures.

How do we go about creating a unique but sustainable process where employees can transition to a “desired state’’ is what we would cover in this article.

As described by Heraclitus; “The only thing that is constant is change”

Change is inevitable, but how many of us understand its importance in a competitive word?

For over several decades, Managers and Consultants, realizing that transforming organizations is difficult, have dissected the subject to understand the reason. They have applauded leaders who communicated breakthrough objectives and displayed congruence in communication in order to make change efforts succeed in a competitive world. Studies reveal that several fully thought -through change management initiatives   appeal to people’s hearts and minds but have many gaps during its implementation .In most organizations, two out of three transformation initiatives fail..

Why do organizations experience a large Change management failure rate?

Most people are afraid of conscious change As quoted by Peter Senge , “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

They would rather stay in their comfort zone then thread into the unknown.. As a result, life controls them.

They become a victim of their circumstances and end becoming reactive instead of proactive

Can a business sustain with this ideology for long? We all know the ramifications of this thought.

Businesses have to re-invent themselves during a business cycle to remain competitive. We are faced to deal with new knowledge, new structures, new technology .We evolve and change in response to the changing world.

Change does not need to be a painful process if done sensitively and strategically. It can be process that we employees and teams can enjoy .As we say: “it isn’t about the destination but the journey, so enjoy it,but do begin with keeping the end in mind” 

So what we gather is employees have to ultimately change how they do their jobs and if they are unsuccessful to embrace change and learn new ways of working, results wouldn’t be achieved

      The bottom line is: Organizations don’t change, people do.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive -organizational success and outcomes.-Prosci

Though changes experienced are different and people experiencing them respond differently to these changes, it is proven through a series of studies that we can influence members in their personal transitions, to move from their own current states to their own future states.

The current trends of failures in Change management initiatives reveal that Organizations need to rethink their strategy while undergoing a change initiative. Typically, they turn to old-school restructuring , but in the long term both damage employee engagement and company profitability.

A negative impact on the people’s psychological contract s leads to  a disaster that affects the processes laid by the firm that has a direct and slow  hit on customer’s service touchpoints and finally on the top-line

What did we learn?

                         Most people resist change

Research on SMARP shows that only 38% of people like to leave their comfort zone. The other 62% feel fear the discomfort. They may think, “Oh great, this change will have an effect on my career growth.” or “I will not do what I like doing anymore.” or “Will they keep me in?”

 Resistance can lead to a 20% decline in job performance damaging business revenue and sustainability, let alone future scalability according to the Harvard Business Review

Progressive Passive -aggressive behavior is termed as a ‘silent killer” has a negative cascading impact on the health of the business, customers ,and most importantly, the brand.

People are integral to the overall health of the organization and organizations need to be sensitive in the way they treat their workforce during such time, if not they would face the “pinch” of indirect costs that include:

  • Low morale and risk averse employees
  • Decreased productivity, a strong urge to resist and avoid, delays, sabotage
  • Loss of institutional memory and trust in the management
  • Damage to the Brand equity cost
  • Decline company profitability

Why do Organizations get this wrong?

Management treats human capital as a “process” and believes that people would embrace change instantly

The soft stuff is really the hard stuff. Dealing with process and functions aren’t as complicated as changes to  the leadership styles, communication styles and patterns, beliefs and assumptions that influence behaviour needed for change.

This is where the stark difference between strategic and operational  change management is made.

 In an operational change initiative, leaders connect change plans to business outcomes and evaluate its impact through various measures; they adopt a “touch and go” approach to quickly implement this thought. Leaders need to understand that this wouldn’t help support business interest in the long-haul. A phase- wise approach, slow and the steady would bring ultimate and intended value to the change initiative, which we define as a strategic application of change.

The objective one needs to drive is “change is about influencing hearts and minds, not just informing eyes and ears”

Even if the change is embraced, the employee would treat the change differently and hence it’s important to visualize the road-map to an employee’s commitment or compliance plan and analyse where things could go wrong during this path to take early corrective measures.

Other “touch and go” factors include:

  • If there is no specific all-encompassing vision to achieve higher -order needs, there is no purpose for individuals to see the “larger “picture.
  • Communication channels are not established to create streamlined conversations and most importantly  creating a two -way process to receive productive feedback, where necessary
  • The members do not see the clarity in their responsibilities , have no understanding of the accountability they hold and don’t have a  concrete response to “what’s in it for them”? if they choose to embrace this change.
  • Change management tools and processes are designed to only meet organizational objectives not considering employees need.
  • The greys that come with an unforeseeable future and the potential  loss in prestige, position, prospects of members outweighs expectations of the achievable benefits for the company
  • Unsuccessful attempts in  not engaging employees  to evolve as change agents   

Organizations need to be wary of not entering a zone of   “change fatigue” a symptom that causes instant resistance which is experienced  due to past  intensive and exhaustive change initiatives.

As told by Dale Carnegie

“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

As long as leaders are mindful of the fact that if safety needs in the Maslow hierarchy of needs  are not met the next order needs that include “a feeling of belonging” and “Self-esteem” cannot be addressed

Most organizations focus on managing change though the intent is to focus on managing transitions.

Change is an event that happens to people whether liked or not.Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through changeChange is instant while transition is gradual.

 “Treat our people sensitively during this time as they would have a direct impact on our customers that would eventually have a cascading effect on business”

Where do we start? How do we engage our stakeholders with questions before a transition?

  • Is the change important and why is this change necessary?
  • How do we percolate this importance to our employees?
  • How is this changed aligned to our organizational strategy?
  • What are the potential reisitence we would encounter during this time
  • What will our employees need to sacrifice  during this change?
  • What are the factors that would help them embrace the change?
  • Is the organiational culture in favour of this change?
  • What skills are necessary to make this change a success?
  • Who are the change catalyst and how do we benefit from their expertise ?
  • Do we have a pre-define and post –analysis metrix to capture progress of the change?
  • How are we motivating our people if this change happened?
  • How do we capture organizational, process and people impact during this change?
  • How do we review the change and what are the forseeable lessons learnt?

When change is seen as the only alternative to business success, leaders need to be careful in creating an environment in which this change can be transitioned successfully

Does a transformational culture correlate with a successful change initiative impacting business?

A positive business impact can happen only if the culture in which people work address and echo sentiments they can identify, ,associate and relate to while coping with change thus creating a conducive work environment for employees to perform at optimum level of productivity.

If a culture of empathy, understanding, support and transparency is seen it would help members reciprocate this feeling by working closely towards their functional goals that would help improve the customer touchpoint, thus impacting and improving business results.

Leaders need to take cognizance of the fact if any of these components are missing, what would be the specific emotional implication on human capital and the ramifications on business

An Organization’s leap to a successful journey on change implementation would include:

A Transition Schedule

The key focus here is to bridge the gap between where are we now and where do we want to head to?

In this regards leaders need to have a defined plan on their breakthrough objectives for the next  3-5 years and be able to break it down to annual goals and further to a departmental key performance index

The schedule would encompass typical work elements that include and not limited to identifying the functional  objectives, coordinating with cross- functional teams and  picking the appropriate action to complete the task .This would also include the resources, scope and duration of the task.

Focus: Buy-in from leader

Values: Direction

Identifing Change Sponsors’

Experienced resources with a passion to make a difference are spotted and christened as change sponsors taking the change torchlight forward.

These change catalyst can support organizations on two levels – with the support from Human resources they can establish and create core and threshold competencies needed to drive the functional and in-depth knowledge of the organization which are critical at all levels.

Focus: Pillars of support and co-ordination

Values: Leadership and Ownership

Establishing a Communication Matrix

A clear well planned flowchart on the different levels of phase -wise information to manage stakeholder communication and cross-vertical and functional situations should be laid out.

In addition, clarity on task initiatives are manifested, dependencies are identified and documented. This would help employees understand the methods and processes used in the project and how realistically it can add value to business impact.

Another factor that should be included is cross- communication, which is equally important.

In many cases, it’s important to have a collaborative cross communication matrix of two important teams: the project and change management to address hitches or execution gaps or disagreement over the correct way to proceeds with an intuitive.

Focus: Establishing the road -map

Values: Clarity

Feedback channel

Listening to and responding to feedback from employees’ plays a key role in the success of change processes. Therefore, it is imperative to establish platforms where employees can voice out their feelings with an assurance of being heard and their concerns addressed.

Focus: Creating platforms to reach- out

Values: Transparency

Upskilling Competency

Teams are to undergo “shift “thinking by adopting the best practises to successfully transition to the desired state. Definition of training content, implementation of kinesthetic and experiential learning platforms to allow employees to learn at their own phase and learn “as they go”

Focus: Helping with learning needs

Values: Support

Psychological & Performance Coaching

The real success of the change implementation is seen under this stage. Individuals and specialists in each function are identified as “coaching agents”. Coaching agents must understand the appropriate instruments and methods, and use them in a practical setting to ensure the necessary professionalism in the implementation of the program.

In addition, employees who resist change and for those who experience   emotionally unbalanced disorder are invited to  platforms like an Employee Awareness Program to dispel their fears and defuse intrinsic conflicts.

Focus: Unlocking people’s potential

Values: Empower


Organizations need to re-evaluate their approach to changes. It’s easy for leaders to incorporate quick changes in business without considering the ramifications it may have on its people. Statistics reveal a business impact link starts with human capital. If people are treated well during a trying time, its impact is shown positively   on customer engagement thus addressing the top- line of a business, while the same group of members can demonstrate Organisational citizenship behaviour by streamlining the bottom-line of the business to help support the business during the challenges it may face during this change.

The development and strengthening of competencies in this domain is essential for companies to ensure their competitiveness does not suffer, which is why they must rely on external expertise .An effort to achieve  transformational success to a desired state is highly possible if an collaborative approach is adopted, as proven in many real-time cases.

Where can we as WPFL help support your need?

As an HR consulting specialist we would help your business transition during the time of restructuring, smoothly and seamlessly to protect your business interest, reputation and bottom line.

We help our clients define their “desired state” by addressing the breakthrough objectives, transformational values and annual goals

Hence, we as consulting partners can help businesses protect their interest by providing solutions to mitigate potential negative effects caused by an immediate unthoughtful change.