Dealing with Change: Promoting new ideas (part three)

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Introduction: Doesn’t it seem to you that the pace of change is becoming more rapid? I have found it useful to consider change not as a unitary event, but as two separate processes that happen more or less in tandem. When I am asked to change, I have to take on something new, but I also have to let go of something. I have found it useful to consider those two things separately. I also have found that those people who are pushing the change often want to focus on the new and ignore or downplay the old. This imbalance is often a source of resistance. This resistance cannot be overcome by pushing harder for the new. In fact pushing harder often strengthens the resistance.

There is also the issue of difference in how people react to change in general. Some people welcome change and adapt quickly, others move more slowly and some will fight to the bitter end. Recognizing the difference and dealing with each group individually is critical to success in implementing change. This is particularly true for change that is not your idea, you are just asked to “make it happen”. I would like to take some time to deal with each of these three issues over the next few days.

PART THREE: Promoting new ideas

There is no one way to introduce any new idea. There are however a few questions which can improve your odds. The first question is “why”? What are the reasons for making this change now?  Please remembering that “because I said so” is not a good alternative. Some people will want long answers and some will not.  You need to be prepared to answer at whatever length they deem appropriate. If their eyes glaze over you have taken too long to explain. If they are asking questions when you think you are done, they are not satisfied.  If you are doing this well you will go home thinking you have said everything a million times. Take heart;  if you do not provide plenty of rational, they will make up something that may not be to your liking or may not be accurate. Be as clear and concise as possible.

The second question is WIIFM (what’s in it for me)? This is the first question that comes to mind for most people.  This will vary considerably from one person to the next.  The benefit may be large or small, it may be immediate or in the future, and it may seem strange to you sometimes ; never the less you need to be able to articulate it clearly for all involved in the change.

The third question will be what is required of me?  This includes do I know how or if I will be trained. It also includes will I have the time and resources to do this effectively. If I need help will it be available? All the questions are related to can I succeed at this. Related to this is the issue of safety. This includes job security, physical safety and not being made to look foolish. These two issues of safety and success are paramount especially with the early adopters since many others are watching them.

There are also issues around what happens if this change effort fails or if it needs to be modified . What do we do during the change over? Do we have a backup system and if so how long do we keep it? Who will bear the cost of running parallel systems for a time? What will we do if it fails completely? How easily can we back out and at least go to the old system

How will all of this affect relationships with customers and coworkers? Will reporting relationships change? What parts of my life and job will remain the same?

Again, please remember that if people are not given information they will make something up or will listen to the rumors spread by others.  It would be difficult to imagine sharing too much information. Be patient. People remember only a percentage of what you tell them and you can never be sure which part. Communication is key and should be conducted by various means.

Dr. Stephen Earnest is a partner at Earnest and Treff Consulting and associate faculty in IUPUI’s Master of Science in Adult Education program.  His professional commitments center around ways to increase understanding of how work groups work by teaching Participation Training. If you are interested in having him come to your business, please contact him by email at