You know you must commit to embracing change. However, before you commit, think through the change you are committing yourself to. Understand it's impact. Is it about a merger, expansion, productivity, reducing costs, integrating departments, or empowering employees? The clearer you are, the more emphatic your decision will be. To commit or not to commit.
Degree of commitment at the beginning of a change process
The team at The Change Express®, was involved in facilitating a change project, in the retail sector in India. At the very onset, we discovered a huge gap in the commitment levels of leaders, professionals, and suppliers. Everyone was motivated to increase business volumes and support each other, however, no one was clear about the change they would have to initiate themselves to get the ball rolling. We knew this risk had to be mitigated to prevent resistance during the project. For e.g. the leadership needed to categorically commit themselves to improving quality standards keeping a future merger in mind. A 'sure-we-are-committed' attitude without any 'real' commitment in terms of concrete actions towards change, was guaranteed to fail. They needed to think-it-through. Ask themselves questions like, what behaviour should they model that will empower employees? Will the existing team suffice to help achieve their new ambitious goals? Should the teams be re-organized? Is there a mind-set issue?
In order to manage this uncertainty at the very beginning of the change process, we made the team self-reflect. The following was discussed and debated at length.
How do I react when confronted with change?
What in my personality, tends to prevent me from reacting to change in the right manner?
How can I measure my commitment levels? What does being committed require of me? What measurable action can I take? How can I deepen my commitment? Am I ready to be honest to myself and recognize my own lack of commitment?
In parallel, we initiated intensive discussions with specific teams about commitment towards change. For example a team of professionals, board members, or a management team. Our research concluded that in the beginning, people are far more committed to their individual teams, than to the organization. People feel insecure and uncertain about that, which lies outside their comfort zone. Most people are not committed to change, unless they are the ones initiating it. Those who initiate are the ones who embrace change at all times. Others get caught up in the impact of the change rolled out and slowly adjust to the resulting disruption. They may or may not enjoy the dynamics of the process. As the change engulfs them, and they see it bring about results, their response gradually changes too. From an 'okay' they move to 'well, why not?' and thus find themselves having embraced change to a larger degree.
So in the retail business case, why was there a lack of commitment? Three key reasons. Firstly, the content of change itself was unclear. People were unable to translate how the 'change' would impact their day-to-day business operations. Secondly, the management team lacked commitment. They knew what change they wanted but were not involved in the process of change. Neither did they seem to realize that they were the key to success. Lastly, the management team was distrustful of each other and indulged in politicking. The bond, the spirit of togetherness was lacking. It took two team sessions of sharing personal views and experiences, before hurdles could be crossed, bonds re-ignited, and everyone stepped on board. Just in time. They were no longer afraid of resistance from their people and were able to dissolve conflicts amicably.
Degree of commitment at the end of a change process
So what are the commitment levels when a change process is 80% through? A round of dialogues and discussions at this stage, helps measure the degree to which change was integrated into business processes, as well as people's minds. Were all the cogs in the wheel aligned to the same business goal? Again, 'commitment' is the key word during these discussions. We found that at this stage, people's level of commitment towards their teams is far greater, even more so towards the organization, and they are eager to embrace change all over again! There were also those, who could not truly commit themselves. The reasons could be many. Varying from 'feeling out-of-place', not being able to adapt, to simply not wanting to change. Our journey showed, that overall, the 'degree of commitment' increases as the process of change progresses.
Change is led by people. People who are committed and understand the benefits. It is important to gauge one's own level of commitment. To understand 'what' you are committing yourself to? In the retail case, to begin with, there was a lack of commitment both towards the team as well as change. However, by the end they managed just fine. Change for the sake of change is uninteresting and ineffective. Change for the benefit of people, and an organization's development is what is exciting! Exciting enough to want to commit to.