Management of Change – Communicating Difficult Change in 4 Steps

Capability to Change

Most people struggle with communicating difficult change.  The good news though, is that our capability to change is really high!  When we are forced into change (even if it’s unpleasant) we find a way to adapt and make it work, don’t we?  This is because we have the need to survive!  It’s built right into us.  We might do this kicking and screaming, fighting it the whole way, but inevitably we will adapt.

Think about your value system and something in your own life that required you to change in an instant.  Maybe you were going to lose a job or got a big bill payment coming up, or maybe a bad relationship.  Did you stay stuck or did you get through it?  Usually the change came from some kind of discomfort about staying where you once were.  That is what we are trying to do – to provide a level of discomfort that is so great it outweighs the benefits of staying where we are today.

We also know that regardless of the support provided for change, some people will just never get there! Click To Tweet

“But wait Kyle, you just said our capability to change is really high.”  Yes, that’s right, I did.  Let’s understand that capability implies “unrealized potential”, such as, “Suzy Bell is capable of change” which implies that while Suzy Bell has the ability and potential to change, it’s not definite that she will discover or use this ability or potential!

Why it Goes Wrong

Willingness to Change

Why change management?

Our natural willingness to change when the outcome doesn’t directly benefit us in an obvious reason why we resist. Click To Tweet

Why?  Because something in our brain want to keep things status quo and we are comfortable.  Remember what I mentioned above, change is hard work because we have to change how we think, see, believe, act, etc.

Think about the last time you were asked to change in a way that didn’t directly benefit you in an obvious way, or where the reward of changing didn’t outweigh the pain that comes from changing.

It is often said we are more motivated to avoid pain rather than to gain pleasure. Instead of focusing only on pain or gaining pleasure, consider the personal benefits. Click To Tweet

For example, you used to sit at a window desk and now you have to move in into what used to be a storage room – sorry about that.  Of course, if it’s the reverse then willingness goes up a bit, doesn’t it? Even though you still have to pack all of your stuff, while still doing your regular job, then having to unpack into the new space, having to clean off the new desk, and then finally setting it all up.  Even if it’s the best change in the world, change the factors at all in any way that it isn’t benefitting you and there is no interest.

Willingness is the consent to proceed.  We are compliant and ready.  But this doesn’t often occur if we don’t have access to all the information or we aren’t deciding our own fates. Click To Tweet

Think about exercise as another example.  We all know that there are huge benefits to us.  And yet many of us still don’t do it regularly – we know there are benefits, most of us even want to exercise, yet our brains and the way we think gets in the way.

Some organizations try to get our willingness higher by trying to convince us of all the personal benefits we will receive.   Honestly though, if they aren’t real “benefits” that are applicable to the individual then people will see right through it.

To Make Change Successful


Communicating Change

  1. Status Quo, Negative Side
  2. Coming Change, Positive Side
  3. Coming Change, Negative Side
  4. Status Quo, Positive Side

Putting it All Together – ‘Raising Condo Fees’ Example

  • Costs to run our building have been going up every year and we haven’t raised our condo fees in two years. We have to replace a boiler in three years and with ever-increasing costs it is clear that we won’t have enough in our reserve fund to replace the boiler if we don’t respond to the increased expenses quickly.
  • As a result of this, the condo board has decided to increase condo fees by 5%. This should allow us to cover our costs and minimize the chance of a significant special assessment.
  • We understand that this increase may be challenging for some unit owners so we are providing you with three months’ notice so that you can financially prepare for payment.
  • We will continue to communicate with you regularly on our expenses and the state of the reserve fund. As you know, we have adopted a culture of full visibility where we have welcomed your feedback.  This level of transparency will not change as we move forward.

The Bottom Line

We’ve also all experienced a change in our organizations that have caused people to leave.  A few colleagues, managers, and leaders might have the opinion that if people can’t get on board, then it’s in the organization’s best interest if they quit. This isn’t the same – organizations are losing great talent, experts, and valuable people assets because of ineffective change that is costly and unnecessary.

Adapted from Queens University; Driving and Building Support for Successful Change Projects Using a Time-Tested Framework

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