People-Centric Change Management (Series 2)

The human factor in change.

By Senthiyl S S G, Director (Consulting), Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | March 23, 2020

Many people have heard this: “The key to a successful change management effort is to engage with people as often and as genuinely as possible.”

However, it is quite common to find leaders and change agents disappointed that their efforts did not yield the kind of results and outcomes they hoped for.

To understand better why this might be the case, I am going to suggest that there are basically two underlying assumptions with which we can approach change.

    1. People are objects, whose primary purpose is to serve my needs
    2. People are people, who have their own needs, objectives, desires, concerns and challenges. And they matter!

Which assumption guides us will determine everything we do and subtly guide and influence our strategy, actions and the outcomes.

Let us consider the implications of assumption 1. People are objects, whose primary purpose is to serve my needs.

When we are consciously and unconsciously guided by this assumption, the approach to change management is largely a fixing strategy. The strategy is influenced by questions like:

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

    • How can I correct you?
    • How can I get through to you?
    • How can I make you understand?
    • How can I convince you?
    • How do I need to work with you to get you to understand me and work with me?
    • How do I get your buy in?

In this approach, the time allocation is largely tilted toward fixing and correcting.

The consequence of this approach is that it further alienates people, increases feelings of distrust and sours relationships.

But let us consider the implications of assumption 2: People are people, who have their own needs, objectives, desires, concerns and challenges. And they matter!

When we are consciously and unconsciously guided by this assumption, the approach to change management is largely a developmental strategy. The strategy is influenced by questions like:

    • What are your needs and concerns?
    • How will you be affected by this change?
    • Why is this change very difficult for you?
    • What obstacles am I personally imposing / are the organization putting up that I can help remove?
    • What support do you need to make it easier for you?
    • What areas do I need to change to make things easier for you?

In this approach, the time allocation is largely tilted toward inclusiveness, development and growth.

As we navigate and help with change, let’s go back to the fundamentals — how we are regarding others!

This underlying area cannot be faked. We either are seeing people as people or we are seeing others as objects.

Leaders and change agents need to start by evaluating how they regard others and strengthen the relational facet of change. It is not a one-time effort. Rather, it is an ongoing effort that will ensure we are driving a developmental strategy that results in sustainable change.

Upcoming article series

In the next few articles, my colleague Zijun (Lynn) Pang 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.

Our previous article talks about the commonsensical change management plan and approach, you can find it here.

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