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Change Management is the Coolest!

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published May 25, 2015

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Liz McBride

Liz McBride

If you have ever downloaded any tools or other resources on our site, you know that we usually ask youcamping about your Biggest Business Challenge in our forms. In response to your feedback, we are featuring a blog series on your biggest business challenges! This post is a response to the challenge “managing change."

This holiday weekend, I’m throwing my "glamping" style aside and doing “for real” camping. Tent, grill, tarp, fishing poles, cooler, gallons of water...done. A friend of mine sent me a link to a startup concept for a cooler called “Coolest.” As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to best practices I’ve used in helping growing businesses embrace change. Five minutes ago, I was perfectly content with my rolling cooler, but I’m now realizing my camping trip will be an epic fail without a frosty, blended drink, a way to carry our gear, both dry and wet storage options, and, most of all, absence of a spontaneous dance party. The electronics charging is a non-issue as there’s apparently no wi-fi in “for real” camping.

We often get questions on helping our growing companies manage change, or even, best practices to getting everyone using Rhythm. Anytime you inject something new into the organization, you’re going to be combatted with your nemesis. Fear.

I recently enjoyed Christine Comaford’s presentation based on her book, Smart Tribes. She said that 90% of decisions are made by our emotional brain. We have our Reptilian part of our brain, which basically tells us if we’re dead or not. Our Mammalian part of our brain is fight or flight. Our pre-frontal cortex is our envisioned future, decision-making and language. It helps us ask the question, “What can I create?”

When something new is introduced into your organization, your people get stressed. When they are stressed, their reptilian and mammalian parts of their brains take over. No wonder they’re not able to happily get on board with the shiny, new thing you want them to embrace. They are deciding whether or not to confront the decision or ignore it altogether.

As a Change Management professional, I would go back to the basic formula for change:

D x V x F > R

In order to get your team and organization to overcome the R (Resistance for change), the following must be true:

D - They are dissatisfied with how things are now
V - They have a vision of what is possible
F - They know the first steps to take towards the vision

When I would prepare companies or universities to embrace a shiny, new thing, they weren’t dissatisfied with what they use today. Excel spreadsheets do the trick just fine, or antiquated systems do the trick just fine, thank you. For me, my roller cooler does the trick, so, why should I get on board with the ‘Coolest’?

D - We don’t even know we’re dissatisfied until we feel pain. If the pain isn’t organic, we must look for pain points, know how our team works day in and day out, and then overlay stories and examples of the pain they are experiencing and what this shiny, new thing will alleviate. I now feel pain when I look at my cooler. Why? Because I was given real examples to which I can relate. Find the D by asking things like: what are they doing today that could be better streamlined? what are they missing they never knew about? how would this help them? what could they focus on that they’ve never had time to do before now?

V - The vision is where I’ve always had the most fun - and it taps into our pre-frontal cortex that Comaford discussed. It helps your team embrace the envisioned future. You can be extremely creative through internal marketing themes coupled with things like swag, parties, conga lines and contests. Do you have to do all of those things? No, but, an absolute must is your team must see you genuinely excited and using the shiny, new object yourself. This gives them a sense of reassurance while quieting the fear.

If you’re introducing shiny, new object to save money as your only vision, you will poke the bear of fear. The vision must map to every audience! Use all of the pain points, stories and examples into their daily work and catapult them into possibilities of tomorrow. Remember, what is important to you doesn’t always transfer to your team.

If you are genuinely not excited about this change and/or you and your executive team won’t be using it yourself while expecting others to do so, you are rolling your old, battered, useless cooler uphill with no chance of a frosty, delicious beverage.

F - So, you are excited? Great! Now, you have to combat the stress your team may be feeling. Don’t let them go back to their mammalian brains. Give them clear first steps in order to be successful. As Comaford says, we must create safety, belonging and mattering. Provide safe ways to learn, ask questions, apply and excel at using this shiny, new object. Let them know through the vision and these clear first steps how this will help them belong and matter in their roles and in your company. You can combat the fear with first steps that include a lot of support and reassurance through targeted and frequent communication, multiple opportunities for training, and a clear support mechanism. Tell them often: “You’ll be’re going to be steps 1-2-3, here’s where to go when you feel stuck...I’ll be here to answer questions, etc.”

Change Management is hard because you have some people who are A-OK with their clunky coolers and are fearful of the unknown. It really doesn’t matter what type of change you’re introducing and how much of a necessity or no-brainer it seems to you. You must take necessary time to plan before this will be introduced and come up with a gameplan to combat fear, gain excitement and create first next steps to success.

I’ve heard far too many times: “They have no choice. We are rolling it out, so they must use it.” Or, “Their reward is their paycheck.” Or, “I don’t have to use this, but, my team does.” You can hear the fear evoking tone in all of these and will never get your team to get on board with your shiny, new object. Will they use it? Eventually. Will they use it to its utmost value? Probably not. Will they embrace it in the time you were hoping? Highly doubtful. Tap into their pre-frontal cortex with D x V x F > R so we can all buy-in to the ‘Coolest’ change management has to offer!

Best of luck in conquering your nemesis - fear - and becoming a change champion! Let the spontaneous dance party begin!

P.S. If this is the last blog I write because I’m forever lost or harmed in “for real” camping with no wi-fi and a useless cooler, know I will miss you.


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Photo credit: Flickr User Bureau of Land Managment Oregon and Washington, CC license