Organizational change and change management is necessary, but it is also a flawed enterprise. Studies show that change initiatives at an organizational level fail more often than they succeed. Over two/thirds fail—obviously far too many, at far too great a cost, for the kinds of strategic necessities that these initiatives represent.
Why does transformation fail? There’s a host of reasons, including culture and soft, people centric elements —the “human resistance to change.” This resistance is a major challenge facing the field of organizational change, and it’s time we look at it from a scientific, distinctive perspective. The human element of change doesn’t have to equate to decreased efficiency or productivity.
Neurological research and analysis in studies can now offer some understanding of the way we process our performance and creativity in a constantly changing environment.
Transformation on a personal level can actually drive organizational change. This is not only more productive but necessary, since, as Harvard Business Review notes, there really are no accepted general theories of change.
Instead, HBR points to clusters of actions that may contribute to the low success rate of change initiatives:
Perpetual under-preparation: Modification of a routine is always dreaded and normally comes off as a surprise to under-prepared employees.
The “burning platform”: The continual, perceived urgency that can create threat when discussing change and what it will bring.
Trickle-down change: Change is typically only implemented from the top of the organization down.
However, what these kinds of change don’t take into account is an individualization of how people view change. Through our research and thirty years of having people complete their Emergenetics Profile, we understand on a neurological level that the way people are wired contributes significantly to the way they respond to change.
For example, there are people who actually welcome change – who treat it not just as a necessary part of life, but as something energizing. Their behavior can drive change and push it organizationally. However, there are also people on the other end of the spectrum who may be quiet about a potential change but are stewing about not being alerted about the change in a comprehensive enough way and not being convinced of its justification. And it’s not personal- they’re just wired to respond to change in a different way.
When it comes to individual thinking preferences, navigating organizational change management can be even trickier. Communicating the rationale for change becomes imperative, but linking it to what people care about can seem nearly impossible. Just providing the data isn’t going to cut it for over half of your employees. By thinking about what people think about (and keeping in mind that not everyone thinks the same way) you’re able to take a more comprehensive approach to change management. You’ll be more likely to get everybody on board with the change and more likely to have everyone moving in the same direction.
We use the Emergenetics Profile with our clients to help them understand how their employees approach change, but if you aren’t able to have everyone go through the assessment, you can start by building your own self-awareness. Are you analytical? Are you conceptual? What behavior do you find yourself most expressing? Look at the full gamut of the way the brain creates ideas and relates to others. Use these attributes in understanding how you view change, and be aware that the next time you present a new idea, you might be presenting it only through your own lens. By understanding your organization on an individual basis and knowing who you are and how you think, you can present the information in the way the recipient needs to hear it. And then the concept of organizational transformation can actually take hold.