Change Management: Three powerful methods for reducing fear and accelerating adoption
Updated: May 29, 2021
Do you want to level-up your change initiatives? Reduce fear and accelerate adoption using stakeholder mapping, Agreed Behavioural Contracts and micro-experiments!
Change or transformation is a mission toward an anticipated future; one brought about as a response to a realised or anticipated change in the environment. There is a risk that the individual, team or organisation will drift, disconnect or become displaced to the extent that they cannot deliver meaningful value over time. This drift, disconnect or displacement drives the change in direction where people, as self-determining agents, will either compete or collaborate on the journey toward a given anticipated future.
Remember, there are competing visions for change in any complex change or transformation scenario. The dominant vision is not necessarily the 'best' vision but the vision with the most significant influence; the overwhelming majority enrol in the journey, aligned by beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, skills, experience, and talent.
Competing visions create friction and lead to conflict. Conflict tends to have winners and losers, increasing anxiety, which, in turn, amplifies uncertainty leading to fear and a freeze-flight-fight response.
A highly-effective change manager or leader is aware of these circumstances and acts to co-create a psychologically safe change journey that heightens stakeholder awareness of what is happening around them, bringing forward learning opportunities that significantly improve personal and team performance.
The following are three suggestions for anticipating and de-escalating conflict that will help improve your influence as a change leader or manager, accelerating collaboration and adoption.
1: Map stakeholder influence, interest and convergence
I use a three-dimensional representation of the change picture based on a given person's interest, influence, and BASKET convergence level. These insights allow me to anticipate challenges to a change initiative and develop personalised action plans to build empathy and rapport with stakeholders.
For example, in considering a given person's interest in a change initiative, I produce a map of where I believe people to be at the moment and another for where I need them to be. I then build an action plan to improve empathy, rapport and influence with this person.
In exploring points of convergence/divergence, I use BASKET (beliefs, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience, talent) indicators to develop insights into potential areas of conflict. This process also helps to surface unknowns that could lead to unintended adverse consequences from my actions. For example, where I am not sure of alignment around beliefs, I seek to engage, using powerful questions to develop empathy and rapport.
Read: Change Management - powerful tools to avoid failure
2: Create an Agreed Behavioural Contract
Have you ever considered using a behavioural agreement to promote positive conversations and constructive, healthy, conflict? The following is an example developed by the members of an EU Energy Change Project:
I will take responsibility for my actions – I need to want to be engaged and involved in change conversations.
I will be curious and not judgemental; I will be open to new ways of doing things.
I will develop constructive conversations using our conversational framework, where challenges will focus on decision-making and problem-solving using goals/vision, values, standards, credibility, logic and risk (see the video above).
I will be clear about what I want to achieve within and contribute to the change initiative.
I commit to creating positive energy, where I understand that the more energy I put into the change initiative, the better the outcomes.
I will move quickly to action and experiment with new ways of doing things - this will allow us to accelerate success and, where necessary, rapidly fail.
I will keep a reflective log and look for patterns that emerge from my engagement and involvement in the initiative.
I commit to meaningful communications to maintain interest and influence.
I will monitor and evaluate my progress against our objectives using FAST & FAIRR principles.
I commit to demonstrating that I am trusting and trustworthy through actions that show I care personally and challenge directly.
3: Accelerate success and failure using self-directed micro-experiments
Have you considered improving psychological safety, influence, engagement, involvement and change adoption using micro-experiments?
Usually, change leaders and managers speak of pilot projects. However, do a little digging, and you will quickly find that scaling a successful pilot project rarely works. Instead, consider where we started with this article, in that change is about competing and collaborating self-determining agents. In other words, sponsor people to be the change.
The need for rapid and sustainable change in complex social environments, linked to resilience and attaining meaningful value over time, nudges us toward two crucial considerations that overcome the challenge of pilots:
Marginal Gains – small adjustments across a range of variables to improve the performance of the whole
Micro-Experiments – personalised micro-changes, decided, designed and monitored through observation and awareness at an individual level. For example, reading your next 360 feedback report, being made aware of a behavioural blindspot, and attempting a micro change in a single relationship, using feedback to determine whether the experiment has positive, negative or unintended outcomes.
FAST (Frequent, Ambitious, Specific and Timely) Micro-experiments are powerful because they are decided and designed with a high granularity level.
More importantly, the personalised nature of micro-experiments makes them more organic, where the change links to the individual's motivations in response to their environment.
Simply put, your change initiative will be more successful if you focus on empowering people to create FAST micro-experiments that can be rapidly amplified when successful and quickly dampened down when you sense failure.
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