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Good vs. Challenging Times: When Should Organizations Enact Change?

Author: Chang Ko

When is the Best Time for an Organization to Enact Change?

When things are going well? When things are challenging? Many leaders tend to think, “It’s time for change,” when things are not going well. Often, this can lead to hasty and abrupt changes that rattle the organization, provoke resistance from employees, and ultimately fail.

Seeking change during challenging times is sometimes necessary, but it isn’t ideal.  Here’s why organizations should work at proactive change and build on momentum when things are going well.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

What is Change?

Change is the process of becoming different than before. Change is inevitable and necessary for any organization to grow and stay relevant; however, change is challenging. It can tax our emotional resources and lead to negative outcomes if it is not strategically planned for and effectively managed.

So, why is something inevitable and necessary for growth so difficult? Does change always have to be a challenge? The simple answer to the latter is no. The former may depend on one’s understanding and belief about the ability of growth.

Change doesn’t have to be difficult and once we can fully understand and accept that change is a natural, inevitable process it can become easier.

Change is Natural

We make change harder than it should be by adding pressure to the process. Change can sometimes feel forced or coerced which challenges our desire for individual autonomy. Effective change should be natural and facilitative. It should focus on the process and present moment actions rather than outcomes. We must first accept and understand that change is an everyday process that doesn’t have an expiration date. Dealing with, and embracing, change is all about adopting a growth mindset.

Change Requires a Growth Mindset

The concept of a “growth mindset’ is attributed to Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck, who studied the relationship between underlying beliefs about learning and intelligence and performance. Dr. Dweck found positive relationships between one’s belief that their talents can grow and develop and improved performance and success. When individuals believe they can continue to grow, change is a more welcomed, natural process. The current state is understood as merely a timestamp of the present. Growth minded individuals realize they will keep changing and are mentally and emotionally prepared to seek out new opportunities. They embrace feedback and recognize that continuous effort towards progress is key.

When an organization is comprised of individuals with growth mindsets, the sky is the limit for enacting effective changes that strengthen teams and drive business outcomes. It is possible to train teams to shift from fixed mindsets to growth mindsets — such training is worth the effort and should come before massive change initiatives are launched.

Make Change Ongoing

One of the difficulties of effective change management is building awareness around the benefits and purpose of the change. When change isn’t a continuous process, it can be perceived as an overreaction to a current state in the organization and resistance is often strengthened. In these situations, no matter how good the desired changes may seem, they can be viewed as a challenge to the autonomy and free choice of the individuals. Keep in mind that effective change management requires active engagement in the daily actions of the organization. It is not enough to communicate that change is coming and hope that individuals will see the benefits and buy-in.

Tips to Help Make Change Ongoing and Effective:

  1. Create, strengthen, and reinforce strong relationships closely aligned to the values of the organization. Ask yourself:  What is your onboarding process like for new hires? Is there mentorship available? Do people in your organization interact with others outside of their immediate department?
  2. Communicate frequently and with variety. Mix and match the various ways to reach the members of your organization. Communication shouldn’t be a limited resource. How often has the newest hire interacted with the senior hires?
  3. Get comfortable with failure. This doesn’t mean failure doesn’t matter, but it’s about creating a mentality of playing to win vs. playing to not lose. This may sound the same but there is a distinct difference in the approaches. When was the last time your organization took a bold risk?

When change is an ongoing practice within an organization of growth-minded individuals, teams are able to proactively integrate new ideas and quickly adapt to dynamic environments. This is where the magic happens and when organizations become true industry leaders.

Does your organization need a shift in mindset to embrace change? Are you rolling out a major change initiative and need to ensure long-term buy-in? We can help make Change Management ongoing in your organization. Continue the winning streaks and contact HigherEchelon today.

Further Reading:

In one of our earlier blogs, Dr. Angie Fifer explained how to utilize evidence-based, structured models for making change management more efficient.

Check out this blog by Siana Sylvester for resources on using emotional intelligence effectively to facilitate change.

References:

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset. Ballantine Books.

About the Author:

Chang Ko is a HigherEchelon organizational performance consultant project manager and high performance coach. He has worked with a diverse population across Department of Defense, other U.S. Government agencies, sports, medical, education, and business professionals and served as the Director of Cognitive Performance for US Army Special Operations Command. He studied applied psychology and engineering at the University of Chicago-Illinois and received his Master of Science from Florida State University in Educational Psychology with a focus on Sport Psychology. He is a Prosci certified change management professional and is also trained in bio & neurofeedback for performance applications, decision making and creating strategic influence.