Mobilizing Energy for Change by Connecting the Dots

This post was shared by Robert Devlin – faculty of the Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership in the Institute for Transformational Leadership.

“We’ve invested untold hours and big budgets to address what we heard in our employee survey and people are still saying that nothing ever changes around here.”

Sound familiar?  Sometimes even when leaders take action to make things better, their efforts go unnoticed, or the impact is not what they hoped for. From a workforce point of view, the story is: ‘nothing ever changes … tomorrow will be harder than today … it’s wearing me out … maybe I’ll go somewhere else …’ and so the cycle continues.

To avoid this scenario and build some good will with your most precious resource – your workforce — consider the following principles when planning change:

  1. Involve People in Planning for Changes That Affect Them. If you start by engaging those most likely to be impacted, you’re more likely to be addressing things they care about, and when change is made, they’ll see how it relates to their concerns.  You can involve people at the start, or you can spend lots of time grappling with cynicism and resistance! Involving them up front gets better ideas, builds buy in, and eases the way during implementation.
  1. Create a Shared Picture. Change efforts often stall or stumble when they move into action without helping people connect the dots between their concerns and the actions being taken. We each see things from our own viewpoints depending on our role, where we sit, the groups we belong to, and the day-to-day challenges we face.  Surfacing a wide range of perspectives in ways that allow people to see the interconnections, agreements and divergence gets us to a shared picture – not who’s right, but a nuanced version of what’s going on and where we fit.  This lays a firm foundation for change efforts that stick.  
  1. Build Common Ground and Foster Collective Action . Based on your shared picture, identify priorities that address critical concerns so you can move out together – at the top with enterprise policy and action and at various levels to the front line, factory floor or research bench. Understanding the big picture, including the nuances of different perspectives, allows everyone to do their part in moving big systems, acting locally in ways that make sense while simultaneously holding a more global mindset.

Bob Devlin teaches in Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). In ITL’s Organization Development Consulting and Change Leadership (ODCCL) program, we explore how to support change efforts, as organizational leaders and as an external consultants. If you would like to be part of a community of professionals committed to helping organizations and people thrive, consider joining our next cohort.  Applications are due FEBRUARY 15th.

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