To say our world has experienced one of the most unprecedented changes in recent history would be an understatement. Just over a year ago, the global COVID-19 pandemic upended and forever altered how we will go about our lives. From business, to education, technology, policy, security, healthcare, and even elections – COVID has disrupted it in some way.
While the pandemic didn’t give us a choice in how the changes impacted us, national security leaders do have a choice in how to manage organizational change. Traditional change management approaches often rely on a simple concept: if you educate people, they will go along with the change. Seems logical, right? Yet people’s behavior consistently contradicts this theory. But why?
Change elicits an emotional response as it seeks to alter engrained behaviors; trying to change them pushes us out of our routine or comfort zone. And when our routine faces disruption, or we’re made to feel uncomfortable – we resist because we are human. That’s why to successfully manage change, it’s crucial for leaders to have a people-centric change approach, such that change isn’t happening to your people, but rather with your people.
So how exactly do you do this?
Establish a vision for change. Articulate why are you undertaking a change and the outcomes you hope to achieve. How will your organization – and your people – be better off because of this change?
Listen before you act. Understand which stakeholders are being impacted, and more importantly, how. Hold “listening sessions” with stakeholder groups to socialize your change vision and seek their input and ideas. Come to the table with an open mind and no foregone conclusions.
Co-create the future. Engage impacted stakeholders in iterative design sessions to define the end state and how you will get there together. Allow your people to be a part of the solution and the journey to achieve it.
Communicate with transparency – and empathy. We’ll say it again – change is hard. Everyone is impacted differently, so tailor messaging accordingly and err on the side of transparency.
Celebrate successes. Recognizing achievements keeps people engaged towards achieving an end goal. As you reach key milestones, celebrate – whether it be a virtual lunch, an email shoutout, or whatever is appropriate for your organization.
As businesses, schools, and the world reopen, leaders have an opportunity in front of them. How will you permanently adapt to and manage not only to our “new normal” but any future change in front of them? Include your people. Don’t just educate them, but listen to them, involve them, and allow them to be co-creators in your new organizational future.