Building Readiness for Change: What Change Agents Should Know

Posted by Paula Alsher on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 @ 04:52 PM

You've recently been assigned as a Change Agent on an important transformational change project. This change has some significant implications for how people do their work.  There will be new technology, some re-structuring, lots of new business processes.  It's the whole ball of wax.  While it's early, you know you need to build readiness for the transformation. Where do you start? Building Readiness for Change


Consider Frames of Reference 

Each of us brings our own background, values, perceptions, experiences to our jobs. One of the Change Agent's chief responsibilities is to understand how other people view the transformational change project.  You need to view the world not just through your own lens, and your Sponsors' lens, but also through the lens of all the other people who will be impacted by the change.

This is what we mean when we say you must "put yourself in the FOR of the Targets of your change."   Remember that peoples' perceptions are their reality! New systems may be exciting to you, but it may be scary to Targets who aren't as comfortable with technology.  For example, a physician who must now use an electronic medical records system may not feel comfortable with his or her keyboarding skills. No one wants to look incompetent!

These Frames of Reference are powerful forces.  And it is more complicated because one person may have multiple Frames of Reference!  The physician, for example, may have the Frame of Reference of his profession. Then there's the Frame of Reference of the department or area (emergency room, for example) and his personal Frame of Reference.  These various Frames of Reference are always in play and shape perceptions.


A Guide to Change Readiness Checklist

The work of building readiness requires an explicit plan for managing the inevitable resistance to the transformation.  Resistance is simply an effort to protect and defend a Frame of Reference.  In other words, "This is my perception.  Don't go messing with it!"

As a Change Agent, you aren't in a position to alter the content of the change, but you can shape perceptions by appropriate application of your inter-personal skills.  Here are some simple, but effective guidelines:


1.  Put yourself in the Target's Frame of Reference.  How does this change look from that perspective?

2.  How you can explain the change from the Target's Frame of Reference in a way that is personally meaningful, not just "corporate-speak?"  This includes having the "desired state" and new expectations clearly stated and communicated.

3. Operate with the assumption that the pain of uncertainty is greater than the certainty of pain. Don't under-estimate the fear of the unknown!

4.  Be transparent about what the consequences of the change are going to be.  People should know what they will have to "give up." If you don't acknowledge this you will lose trust and credibility.

5.  You will generate more resistance the more often you tell people that "they can't go home again."  Be careful when you use the term "pilot" because people may perceive that if the "pilot" doesn't go well, then the change will go away and all will return to the way it is now.

6.  The more that you disrupt habits and patterns, the more resistance you will have.  Be sure that you have sufficient reinforcements in place to motivate people to move to the future state.

7.  Look for opportunities to involve Targets in how the change is implemented.  This gives Targets a sense of control and helps to decrease resistance.

8.  Validate that much good has been accomplished in the past.  When you invalidate peoples' pasts, you increase the level of resistance.

As a Change Agent, you can't take the task of building readiness for change on without working with your Sponsors.  That's why it is so important in transformational change to have aware Sponsors who know the appropriate tactics for managing resistance to change with their direct reports! And we can help you do that.

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Topics: Change Readiness, Change Agents