Many managers grapple to cope well with swift change. Some must work longer. Now what matters most to companies are such traits as flexibility, adaptability to change, and problem-solving capability. These changes in expectancies require a 180-degree shift in thinking.
Leaders must change themselves before they can be effective at leading change by example. The initiative achieved initial cost savings but hesitated as employees began to question the leadership team’s vision and dedication. Here’s a 6F model to describe how people respond to change.
- The Foggies. They either work in a comparatively stable environment or they simply choose to ignore change. They are in a “fog” so to speak. The challenge for leaders is to communicate scrupulously to help everyone understand the business realities. The challenge for individuals is to stay up-to-date with trends and to take responsibility for managing their own futures. Individuals in this state mostly contemplate what is right for them individually, and they have trouble seeing the larger picture of what is right for the organization.
- The Fakers. This group tries to convince themselves and others that they are with the “change program,” even though they have no intention of changing. They pay lip service to management and hope they can get away with just “talk” and no action. The fakers may want to change but don’t know how and are afraid to admit it. They do not internalize the change message. They may be more comfortable taking small, easy steps when faced with a change situation—first articulating how they feel about the change and what they can and will do.
- The Faultless. They see the changes, don’t like them, complain, and see themselves as victims. They may blame their leaders. The problem with attributing blame for others to “fix” is that it doesn’t change anything. They must move to a model of shared responsibility and accept that there is no one individual or group to blame. They must assess their own situation, how they are responding, and take personal responsibility for what is in their control to change.
- The Fearful. Downsizings, scandals, terrorism, mergers, and acquisitions cause many people in a constant state of fear. The fearful may engage in self-protectionist, cautious, even paranoid behavior as they try to avoid an undesired fate. To address problems, ask: “About what am I most afraid? What are the odds of this happening?” Often, our fears are irrational. Some say fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Identify the fear, then decide what to do to handle the challenges of the situation.
- The Fighters. Those who fight for the status quo are typically long-term employees who protect tradition; those who fight for change often act as vanguards and are seen as firebrands. Status-quo fighters might say: “We have always done it this way” or “We tried that 20 years ago and it did not work.” Sometimes they use a faker approach to lead others to believe they agree with the changes; but they work behind the scenes to thwart new plans.
- The Futurists. The futurists are adaptable, flexible, global in their thinking, experimental, and career-resilient. They have a high self-concept and believe themselves to be in control of their destinies. Futurists are not fearful because they believe in themselves and have a plan B and C when the current situation does not work out. They are ready for the unanticipated.
When external consultants are hired to fast-track change, these change agents usually encounter a resistant culture. The more they fight for change, the more the resistance. Many change fighters either bow out or get pushed out of the system. Leaders need to coach fighters.
Everybody responds to change differently. Leaders help people get in touch with their natural response to change and cope with how to go with the flow in the wake of new realities. For change to cascade down throughout the organization, groups and individuals inside the organization whose behaviors previously symbolize the desired state must be involved in the change process.
Change is tough; transformation is tougher still, whether it comprises an individual or an entire organization. By encountering reality and helping employees appreciate the necessity for change, leaders were able to encourage the organization to follow the new direction at the heart of the largest rationalizing in the company’s history. Communications emerge in from the bottom and out from the top, and are directed to make available to employees the appropriate information at the right time and to ask for their input and comments.
Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. Full transparency is required. Change will come only when the people at the top look down and start insisting that others’ resources be handled like the scarce resource it is. The warnings of the urgent significances we face seem to be arriving with greater incidence and in ever more pressing rhetoric, but utilitarian progress is more objective than actuality.