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Change is Social | Build allies to help you lead change

This is the third article in a series on organisational change. In this, we talk about the value of Social forces in getting change to stick.

Leaders really get change to stick when they are able to say that the majority of people in an organisation have changed.

When people are surrounded by others who want them to change and help them do so, change is much more likely. It is always helpful to enlist the help of specialists to work with the business in supporting people’s efforts to change, but much more important is identifying key people or groups inside the business that are already ahead of the curve.

Plan ahead in order to mobilise them behind the change. Spend time understanding their views. Their effectiveness in supporting and helping you lead change depends on two factors:

Willing to Change: are they supportive or resistant? Will they derail the process? Are they indifferent? Are they prepared to take a leadership role in making the change work?

Able to Change: do they know how (and why) to support the change? Do they already exhibit the behaviours needed to make the change stick? Can they be coached, taught or trained? Do they lack the capability to change?

These two factors work together to produce three groups of people:

These are your most critical people early on in the change process. Bring them into the planning early. Build alignment with them, and work on sustaining commitment to help lead change amongst their teams and peers. Give them the resources and support they need to influence others. Collect and share these stories.

Focus on empowering people who want to help, but don’t know what to do. Spend time helping them to understand how they can support the change. Emphasise and continually communicate the “why” behind the change. Build their competence in supportive behaviours – coach, teach and train.

This group know what to do to support the change, but are either indifferent or actively against it. Worry about the indifferent last – they will probably go with the flow. Focus attention on those that are resistant – hear it out, but challenge their thinking in a supportive way. Ask them what would turn their resistance into support, but also hold them accountable for changing.

These people will require the hardest work. Show them how to change, and support their efforts to learn what is needed to make the change work. However, if people either cannot or will not change, ultimately they must be removed. Tolerating a lack of will or ability to change, especially in key roles sends a message throughout the organisation that change is optional.

The key takeaway in using social forces to influence change is ‘harness peer pressure’ and ‘find strength in numbers’.
When the number of people who are willing and able to change grows, change accelerates and begins to stick.

Carey Kurten & Josh Hayman | Organisational Development Portfolio – BKCOB Employee Relations Forum (ERF Committee)

“I get by with a little help from my friends” The Beatles