Your leader turns up in the company bus (just go with it…) and yells excitedly through the driver’s window “Everybody get on! We’re going for a ride to a place called Future State!”
Let’s assume you have high psychological safety in this team, so you feel safe enough to challenge the status quo. You say, “Why are we going there? What’s at Future State?”
Boss: “Oh look it’s great! I’ve been scoping this place out for months and months! Don’t’ worry about why we’re going, we just need to get there. So just jump on so I can drop you off, hurry hurry, because I’ve got another trip to make. ”
You: “Okay… but where exactly is it, this Future State? How do we get there?”
Boss: “Oh, well, we go over those speed bumps there and into a few major pot holes. There’s some extreme corner taking and we need to careen down an embankment or two, but don’t worry about it. You’re going to love it there!! Just jump on!”
Miraculously, you haven’t had your boss committed, and ask: “Will we like Future State?”
Boss: “Well some of you won’t, because it will be different than now, and you’ll have to do things in a different way. Some of you will need to completely relearn your job tasks, others may not even arrive – we might drop some off in Redeployment or Redundancy Lane along the way. But I love it there, so come on, let’s go. Just get on!”
Hands up – and let’s be honest now – who’d get on that bus?
If you raised your hand, kudos, you obviously have great trust in your Leader, but I sincerely hope you wouldn’t jump on such a bus if this event ever transpired.
Whilst satirical, the reality is this is a great metaphor for how most organisations approach change.
As Leaders of Change we’ve been working on the Future State version for so long we forget that others aren’t there with us. So when we launch into change we just expect everyone to jump on the change bus and hold on tight for that wild ride to Future State. Busy Leaders just want to drop off the group to Future State, tick that off their list, and move onto their next task. It’s understandable right.
But for obvious reasons:
- because human beings largely can think for themselves; and
- psychologically because we are wired for threat detection – real life doesn’t work that way, and yet time and time again we see organisations approach change in this way, and Leaders continue to be baffled and frustrated when they get met with resistance.
Absolutely first and foremost in our change messaging is the “Why”. And this ‘Why’ needs to be something compelling to the person who will be impacted by the change. No employee yet has been moved to make significant personal change due to a compliance requirement – so we need to get creative and tap into things that will engage their hearts and minds, not ours, not Execs, not the Boards – but the people on the ground who need to make the changes.
When I work with my Cracking the Change Code Program clients, our first session looks deeply at their current state, and the impact on various groups within their organisation of their proposed change. Not all groups are affected in the same way – and so change messaging needs to reflect that. We look at specific impact by group and projected resistance by group. We analyse the organisations change history and a series of other key attributes that guide our way forward. Our change plan is then formulated including detailed messaging and comms plans.
Our first messaging is pivotal to create awareness for the need for change. There is psychology and 20 years of research behind our change messaging approach that maximises the chances of moving people through the change transition with the least resistance.
Prosci, Global Researchers on Change Leadership, summed this up in one of their recent Blogs “Is your communications plan, telling or communicating?”
They say: “Unfortunately, during times of change organizations often develop and execute communications plans without regard for a change management framework or perspective. Communications serve an important purpose in project management and other processes but change management communications differ from these communications in significant ways.”
If you’re about to go out with your change messaging, make sure it’s not the bus turning up and bundling everyone into the Future State.
If you’d like to know more about how I help Leaders like you Lead Positive Change have a look at my range of programs and services.
Keep leading positive change.
Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner