When faced with the idea of change management, many people think of detailed plans for decision-making, communication and implementation. Others talk about change management as an afterthought to implementing a major change within an organization. The challenge with these mindsets is that there is often not enough emphasis placed on the people part of the change. To manage change well, the people who are affected need to be given as much consideration as the process, technology and financial angles. After all, people are needed if the change is to be successful.
Differentiating Change from Transition
In the simplest terms, change is the thing that happens; it’s usually an external event such as a change in leadership or the deployment of a new strategy. It is also typically inevitable. While many people are uncomfortable with change for a variety of reasons, on a basic level, we all come to terms with change as a fact of life. On the other hand, the transition is where the work must happen. William Bridges is considered an expert on change, and his research, books, seminars and consultations focus on providing methods for organizations to deliver better approaches to transitions. He defined transitions as the “psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about.”
If businesses are to manage change successfully, it starts by understanding the transitional phase as distinct from the change itself.
Focusing on People’s Needs
Bridges points to the need to embrace the ending for the transition to begin. The first stage of his model directly faces the resistance people are likely to have, along with the emotional upheaval that comes along with forcing people from their comfort zones. A range of emotions, from fear and anger to uncertainty and frustration, are likely to be present and leaders must be equipped to guide their workers. The second stage is the Neutral Zone, the bridge between the old and the new. Here is where people are equipped for the new reality while continuing to overcome challenges such as resentment, anxiety and low morale.
In a similar approach, the ADKAR model comes from an organization founded by Bell Labs engineer Jeff Hiatt. The five-step model starts with awareness: making sure employees understand the changes and why they are necessary. Next is desire: translating reasons into personal motivating factors for workers. The third step is knowledge: providing education and mentoring to close knowledge gaps while overcoming challenges and resistance factors.