People-Centric Change Management (Series 1)

Change management is everywhere, in everything and part of every organization’s efforts to transform.

By Pang Zijun, Facilitator/Implementation Consultant, Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | March 23, 2020

Commonsensical change management plan and approach

Speaking of change management, when considering some of the critical, and standard initiatives organizations have to engage in, one might say:

    • Readiness assessments
    • Communication of the goals, values
    • Policy and process reviews
    • Alignment exercises
    • Data collection
    • Feedback analysis
    • Resistance management

And so on…

But the truth is, people don’t simply change because policies or procedures require them to, nor do they change because the “change management processes and activities” are fun.

People change for people – for themselves and for each other. Change is relational!

It necessarily follows that, “the key to a successful change management effort is to engage with people as often and as genuinely as possible.”

Change management needs to be more people-centric.

I am not suggesting that we discount the standard initiatives and approaches. Rather, let’s take a closer look at the process and re-examine them with “the relational nature of everything”.

In nearly all companies, change management is initiated from the top because something in the current organization is either not working, or not working effectively because of a new vision or strategy.

Therefore, a common tendency in such change approaches start from “correcting and fixing the way we work”. Organizations spend a lot of time and effort in the area of correction, and then move on to the next level – changing from focusing on the “what” to the “how” and “why”.

Purpose, vision, alignment become the main focus at this stage, and people are made to go through training, meetings, motivational activities to be, at the least, told, taught, and at the best, communicated the “how and the why”. The objective of these activities serves one purpose – to convince people “what we are doing is a good idea”.

Sometime later, as more and more activities are carried out and strategies implemented, it leads to surveys to evaluate the change management efforts. Data from surveys will be collected and analytics teams and change agents will sit together looking at the charts and the pie diagrams trying to figure out the ROI.

Some organizations go one step further and “read, listen and learn” from the comments and feedback from people including change agents, middle management, front liners etc., to understand their concerns, worries and pushbacks. Again, this is done in order to plan and execute MORE activities to go around the same circle – fix and correct undesired behavior, teach and convince people of the purpose, and evaluate the results etc.

All these activities and approaches are great, and to some extent try to involve the “human” factor as much as possible, but… they rarely address a vital element: the relationship!

Without a healthy and authentic relationship as a foundation, telling people “change is good” is not a change management effort – it is a marketing campaign! Or sales campaign!

Upcoming article series

In the next few articles, my colleague Senthiyl S S G and I will be diving into different aspects of organizational challenges.

For each article, we will be:

    1. Exploring some common challenges organizations face; and
    2. Provide unique perspectives on how we can make leverage on mindset to mitigate organizational challenges, and strengthen the effectiveness of our work.

Want to know more about how to strengthen the relational aspect of change management? Check out this article here.

For those interested to know more, check out Arbinger’s books: Leadership and Self-DeceptionThe Outward Mindset and The Anatomy of Peace.