Over the last few articles, we have seen that managing change involves understanding its tangible and intangible impact through analysis, planning, and strategy. It has also come out that the ultimate unit of change is the individual not the organisation and this understanding must shape how we engage and support individuals during change processes. It also affects the strategies and interventions we implement for the right kind of impact to realise effective change.

Change management draws insights, knowledge, and expertise from many disciplines including psychology, human resources, and system thinking, among others. The conditions of each change differ, and the Change Practitioner’s role is to help those affected by any change to understand, accept and adapt to it.

Also Read: Job Of A Change Manager

Today we look at the individual and how each one deals with change.

In recent weeks we have seen organisations rapidly pivot to new ways of working and put in place systems and processes to help ride the tide of uncertainty created by Covid-19. Organisations have needed to digitise quickly and automate processes requiring staff to think and behave differently, acquire new skills, behaviour, and mindsets. They have also redesigned processes and adapted to remote working. Remote work has come with the unexpected challenges of managing children, homeschooling, and attending to work.

Organisations have also needed to re-organise and create business structures that can support the business sustainably inevitably leading to some redundant roles. At the national level, government interventions have necessitated behaviour change from the citizens including social distancing, curfews, sanitising and wearing masks. All these have a direct impact on the individual.

Also Read: 5 Key Competencies Of An Effective Change Manager

Individuals respond to change with a variety of responses that are either physiological or psychological including scepticism, shock, fear, worry, anger, anxiety, or even denial. Think back to the announcement of the first Covid-19 case. Fear and anxiety took centre stage and while the government encouraged organisations to embrace remote working, employers were left grappling how to make it work. Reactions like anger, fear, or worry are not limited to unwelcome changes but also affect changes that are welcome. Though this still surprises Change Practitioners and leaders, the reality is that comfort with the status quo and resistance to change are natural human tendencies even when the process or situation is not working. 

Change Practitioners must understand that change has an individual impact and does not occur in a vacuum. This demands an understanding of the individual’s personal context whether age, family situation, financial, physical, career, and emotional health. All these, are key aspects of how individuals interact with the workplace and must be considered carefully. The role of the Change Practitioner is to help individuals accept change and integrate it into their behaviour and work processes thus must understand how people experience change. He or she must also be cognisant of possible responses and reactions as they help those affected to embrace and adopt a new way of working and behaving.

Also Read: Why Change Management Certification Is Important

Understanding how people react and respond to change is key for the Change Practitioner to structure change activities, strategies, and intervention rights. It helps create the right support to encourage acceptance and adaptation. All through the implementation process, reactions will vary between apathy, anger, bargaining, acceptance, and enthusiasm. The reactions to change vary from each individual or group so it is not possible to expect all individuals to respond in the same manner at the same time.

Two key skills every Change Practitioner needs are active listening and empathy. The ability to listen, empathise and reflect understanding go a long way in assisting individuals’ transition through change and make them feel heard and understood. Listening requires remaining tuned into and fully present in discussions, asking the right questions, testing assumptions, suspending judgment, and carefully thinking through responses and rebuttals.

Empathy is about being in the other person’s shoes. It means taking what one has heard, processing it, reflecting an understanding of the thoughts and emotions shared, being considerate, and open to the views and perspectives the those affected by the change.

Also Read: Uncertainty And Change Won’t Stop The Good In Today

Every individual experiences and processes change differently, and this must always remain in the Change Practitioner’s mind. Understanding this makes leading change more inclusive and effective thus ensuring team support for the process.

Written By Nyawera Kibuka

Nyawera currently provides strategic leadership of Cedar Africa’s offerings and ensures quality service delivery. She is passionate about coaching and training individuals and organisations towards positive change. Successful transformation in every engagement is one of her greatest rewards.

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