There are hundreds of suggestions about how to successfully implement change, most of them very practical and effective. However, we first have to understand something about the emotional and psychological reactions to change that are a part of human nature.
Let me share what I have found 2 of the most helpful frames of reference when I have to build a level of comfort for people to be willing to embrace change.
The first is called “the 10-80-10” reaction dynamic. If you put people in the same room and they hear the same explanation of a planned change at the same time, by the time they leave the room each of them has made an initial judgment about their view of the announced change:
10% are saying, “this is good news; it’s about time; we finally have good leadership; I want to be a part of making this happen.” Engage these people immediately and often; give them visibility and a voice; encourage them to champion the change; listen to their suggestions throughout the process
80% are saying,”I still have questions; I am not sure; Is leadership really committed”; based on past experience in this company I am skeptical; I need more information; I am not against it but I am not yet ready to commit.” Spend time with these people; ask them what they need to know more about or understand more clearly; tell them you want and need them to be involved; be patient with those who are slower to commit; use their questions to understand the key issues that have to be addressed in order to get the critical mass of support you need.
10% are saying, “Over my dead body; this too shall pass, I can wait them out; I don’t like this and I know if I resist they will give up; I am too valuable to them to fight me on this; what are they thinking?” Let these people you know they are against the change, then: 1) tell them you want them to be involved and that doing so will help them understand the benefits of the change; offer them ways to be engaged; 2) if they resist your offer, make it clear that resistance or attempts to undermine the change will have negative consequences for them and if they doubt that then they will only know if you are serious when they fight you on it; 3) for those few who actually do try to scuttle the change or get others to join them in fighting the change, be prepared to terminate them after sufficient opportunity and notice in steps 1 and 2
By focusing your energy for the most part on the first two groups you also create an environment in which the 3rd group start to realize they are on the outside looking in, that people are beginning to tell them to go complain somewhere else and many people are beginning to tell them to get on board or get off the ship.
The next time you announce a planned change be sure to take time to measure the pulse of your 10-80-10 and who is in each population.