Tuesday 12 March 2013

Seven Cs of Change

If you dont have the energy to read this blog then listen to it on YouTube.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent ... It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”.

This is one of my favourite quotes on change, from the legendry Charles Darwin of course. The literature is littered with quotes on change such that Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, in circa 500 BC postulated that:
“The only thing that is constant is change”.

The aim of this blog is to briefly introduce you to change management. I will start with a little theory and then move onto my own change management process. A process I developed a few years ago when with AMA, derived from Kotter and others. I call it The Seven Cs of Change.

I use change management when introducing flexible working practices into large organisations but change management applies to all aspects of life, such has starting a new career, moving house or location, or overcoming the loss of a loved one.

One of the most straight-forward underlying theories of change management is the Kübler-Ross change cycle. Technically it is called the Grief Cycle, and derived from her research on grieving. Kübler-Ross found that people undergo a series of five emotional stages when grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In my line of work people respond to losing their personal desk like they are losing an old friend.

Others have found the stages apply to all kinds of change. Consider jumping into your car on a frosty winter’s morning, you might be off to an important meeting. You turn the key and … nothing. “No this can’t be happening to me” – you are in denial. You get angry and have a Basil Fawlty moment “stupid car, I’ve warned you before, start or I’ll give you a dam good thrashing”. Then you change tact “oh please start, if you start now I promise I will get you valeted” you bargain. You sit all depressed and muttering to yourself “why does this always happen to me, am I such a bad person”. And then finally it sinks in, you accept there is nothing you can do about the situation. So you go back into the warm, tell your client you will be late, drink a relaxing cup of tea and catch up on emails while you wait for the AA to arrive.
The length of time for the change cycle varies, depending upon the level of perceived change and the make-up of the person perceiving it. The 7 Cs is a means of helping people move more promptly through the cycle.
  1. Credible coalition – Those undergoing change require direction so you need a team with strong leadership, they need to have credibility and carry some authority. Use internal chnage champions and external experts to implement the change. For workplace projects include expertise from Property, FM, HR and IT.
  2. Clarify vision – Identify and agree what is to be achieved. The vision should be clear and acheivable. Refer back to the vision for direction and motivation, to focus any action and to ensure people don’t go off on tangents. 
  3. Create a crisis – Or rather a sense of urgency, it doesn’t have to be a burning platform but don’t drag out the process. Most of us work better to deadlines and we need to see an end point.

  4. Communication – Communication, communication and … communication. This is a key step. Resistance to change is mostly down to fear of the unknown. During change people will thirst for information and if you don’t provide it they will make it up (the rumour mill). Feed their hunger for information, satiate them with information such that they start regurgitating it to their colleagues.
  5. Consult and empower – But communication alone is not enough. Involve the staff, give them responsibility for specific tasks, offer opportunities for for them to deliver. Get them involved so they take ownership and buy-in to the process.
  6. Celebrate success – Break down the chnage process into smaller tasks. Pause and celebrate short-term wins. Remind people of achievements to date and reward them for those achievements, especially if it is a complex and long change process.
  7. Cement change – Once the change is achieved make it stick by leading by example, holding feedback sessions and sending out occasional reminders of the benefits of the change.
I want to finish on a short story; it is one of Aesop's Fables about the Wind and the Sun.

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. The Wind said "Whichever of us can cause that traveller down there to take off his coat will be considered the stronger”. The Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow, and blow, as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more tightly the traveller wrapped up, until the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and beamed, he shone in all his glory upon the traveller. The traveller soon found it so hot that he took off his jacket and happily strolled away.

So in summary, change management is the art of gentle persuasion. Whenever you face an unexpected change, or are managing a change programme, think of the change cycle and what you need to get through it. Think of the Seven Cs of Change.

(This paper will form the basis of my Toastmasters CC4 Speech) 

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