Change is inevitable. There is something unique about every day and life is constantly moving forward. But there is routine – about 75% of our actions, thoughts, habits, schedule is repetitive in nature. When change happens, it can feel seismic, regardless of whether it was expected or unexpected or if it is desired or unwelcome in out lives.
Companies are now having to factor in ‘change fatigue’ in their organisational changes and the pace that the organisation as a whole, can absorb and go with yet another change. Be they organisational structure changes, policy changes or what can seem more simply the latest IT upgrade with new jazzy features: it’s change.
Reflecting on my experience in leading organisational change, there are some tactics that can really support people through change, whether the person is part of a bigger change program or perhaps simply going through their own personal transition (new job/role, moving location, move school/college).
Understanding and accepting your attitude and relationship to change is a MUST. Awareness of what your current attitude to change is key. If you don’t like change, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that people’s attitude to change falls into a bell-curve. Understanding your attitude and which category you identify with will make it easier when you see others either running ahead or indeed lagging behind you with a change.
Change will require energy whether you’re with it or against it. When change happens, we have to think differently. Cognitive energy is also known as mental energy or working memory. It refers to the amount of brain space available to a person. While the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use. This means that during a typical day, a person uses about 320 calories just to think. Different mental states and tasks can subtly affect the way the brain consumes energy. If you’re already living a busy life (work, kids, managing a household etc) it may be the case that you simply don’t have the energy for change or it’s causing brain-drain requiring cognitive thinking that you don’t have the capacity for in your already busy mind. [Time.com]
Talk, talk, talk
Talking about what is changing and what is not. Understand what is today and what will be different in the future. Talk openly about the unknowns, risks and what has yet to be figured out. Discussing the change makes it more familiar, removes the feeling of ‘the big mystery’, makes it feel more tangible and real. It also helps everyone check in on their level of cognition and understanding. If the change affects 10 people, the chances are there are 10 versions of understanding. Leaders of change and those supporting others through change must do more than leading the change conversations but be aware of the level of understanding of others. It is a process to ensure that everyone ‘gets with the program’ and is on the same page, that can only be done with open dialogue.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
– Jimmy Dean
Anticipate the next change
Certainly many changes are truly unexpected, leaving those affected in shockwaves. But there are changes we can anticipate. A scan of your life stages, family, news and work environments is worthwhile on a periodic basis. What are the big events? Rather than worrying about everything that is happening in the world around you, ask – what do I need to be aware of that is shifting? what impact would it have on me? what would that mean to me? As we get older in life, some contingency planning and anticipating changes is worthwhile. Where there may be nothing you can do to prevent or lessen the impact of change, being mentally prepared may be your best option.