It is difficult to change everyday behavior – attitudes and habits cannot be altered overnight. How can organizations change the way their employees think? Six tips from our change practice.
Some organizational transformations turn the world of your employees upside down. This happens, for example, if they are supposed to work in a completely different manner: taking on more personal responsibility, implementing agile project management, using new methods such as Working out Loud or paying more attention to safety at work. First, the responsible managers have to convince the employees. But that’s only half the story. Even if the staff welcomes the change, they will not necessarily live the desired behaviors. It’s similar to a good resolution at the turn of the year that you don’t redeem.
If thinking and acting are to change, organizations must overcome two obstacles: firstly, the possible resistance to the idea, secondly, the persistence of learned behavior. This is how you promote a mindset sift:
1. Collecting evidence: What we strive for is good for us
Why will the new approach be better than the status quo? Take a little more time to gather arguments, not only compiling analyses and case studies from specialized media, but also networking with other practitioners who share first-hand success stories with you. Your “taking of evidence” can last several months – which is well invested time, as you can build on the insights in your change story and further communication. And if it turns out that your project does not bring enough advantages or that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, you should reconsider your plan. Because the best change management measures will not bring about a mindset shift if the arguments are not convincing.
2. Proceeding quickly from theory to practice
Imagination and the eagerness to experiment are not the same for all employees. Surely you will find some pioneers in your organization who will be inspired more easily than other colleagues. Start a pilot project with this group of people. Thus you can create initial success stories which enhance trust and make it more tangible what the company is up to.
3. Communicate emotionally, finding the right pitch
As with any major change, it’s important to keep employees up to date by offering information as well as answering questions – both through internal media and opportunities of a personal dialog. It is not enough to present rational arguments. Employees should also feel good about the change. For example, an inspiring mantra from a top executive can help here, expressing in simple words where the company is heading for. The key visuals and stories you tell in your internal campaign must match the company’s culture and the overall mood within the organization. You should only use emotionalism where it is appropriate, and humor where it is well received.
4. Responsible persons must be present
Executives, who represent the new thinking and behavior, must be perceived as protagonists. They should travel throughout the company – not only at the beginning, but over months or even years – to inform about their topic, motivate colleagues, answer questions and exchange experiences with employees. Good platforms for such a presentation are regular departmental meetings as well as own events such as roadshows.
5. If it doesn’t work: keep asking “why”
Are there any teething problems in a team? Keep asking why until you find the root of the problem. Example: A development team wants to use agile methods, but they need three times as long as planned to present a first prototype. Why is that so? Because the developers work on too many projects simultaneously. Why? Because in addition to the prototype, two other ideas from the past were pursued. Why? Because the team leader himself was involved in these older ideas. Why didn’t the team leader drop these ideas? Because he is unsure of the standards by which he will be assessed, if it is no longer the output of developments. A possible solution in this case would be an executive coaching.
6. Small nudges in everyday life
Habits are changed by habits – this sounds strange, but it is the basic principle of an effective method: so-called nudging creates an environment in which the desired behavior occurs automatically. If managers are to travel by train more often than by plane, train journeys can be preset as default in the company’s own booking system. Are employees supposed to network more across disciplines? This will certainly be easier for them if the company sets up meeting points where colleagues from different departments can meet informally – for example, a large and stylish coffee kitchen which is shared by several departments. The key is to make it as easy as possible for employees to behave differently than usual.
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