One of the barriers to engaging employees in organisational change initiatives is that change may not have been managed well in the past. In fact, when working on culture change initiatives it is not uncommon to find poorly managed change at the root of a toxic culture.

The reason? Often what we see in organisations with no awareness of change management principles is a classic “tell” approach to organisational change. The other delightful cherry we see on top – is where organisational change is used to circumvent due process.

These are quite common examples of why change gets a bad rap in the workplace. One speaks to poor organisational justice, the other to an old fashioned leadership approach, more dictatorial than collaborative.

If you’re trying to move forward in a more constructive manner and want to show your people you will be doing ‘change differently’ from now on, the best thing you can do is own this organisational error and confine it to history.

Help people draw a line in the sand.

Be open and honest. Say “we have not always managed change well in the past” and be explicit about exactly how you will manage change differently going forward.

  • What will change about how you do change?
  • How will you be leading change from now on?
  • What opportunities for co-design, collaboration and input will staff have?

During one of my scheduled Cracking the Change Code coaching calls recently my client spoke with me about how successful this approach had been.

This Executive is driving complex change across a service with a very poor history of change and some significant culture issues. We’d discussed the approach at length on previous calls.

The change approach started well in advance of the project activities (project work is task based and linear, change work is about the people, hearts and minds) bringing together a large staff group and showing exactly how this change will be different.

After two meetings the feedback has been phenomenal and there is excitement, optimism and hope in the room. Something rarely seen before.

When speaking with my client, they shared how they had just “got it out there”. Called the poor history and declared the intent to do things better – and the key role the group will play in designing and supporting the change.

My client said they had staff speak up in the meeting saying how thankful they were to hear that message and agree that change hadn’t been done well previously.  Staff speaking about how grateful they were for the new approach and how excited they are about their involvement in this change work.

It takes true Leadership to acknowledge past mistakes. But the trust and respect you’ll earn in the process is certainly well worth it.

The organisations trust won’t be won back overnight, and it will only be through delivering on your positive change actions that people will see you mean what you say.

Over time, this more constructive approach will make future change initiatives so much easier. Change projects will be completed in less time, with less fuss and less impact on productivity and staff engagement. Far and above my client’s success, there are 20 years of global research that proves this.

If you’d like to work with me to ensure the successful implementation of your change project or help you transform your workplace culture – reach out for a chat! I’d love to help you.

Learn more about the Cracking the Change Code Program here.

Tan x

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner

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