During Day 2 of the HRPA 2012 Conference, Robert Harris, author of “Change Leadership – Inform, Involve, Ignite,” spoke about Breakthrough Strategies for Communicating Change. Robert introduced and explained his model of communicating change to help individuals move from the status quo to the new change status and then we put the model to use during an activity. It was a great presentation with a packed room, and many participants felt it could have been a super-session with an extra hour to learn and practice.
People resist change because of emotional and logical thoughts and communication can make or break successful change. We’ve all been involved in change. As HR professionals our role as an organizational strategic HR partner is to help successfully implement change.
What change process is used to communicate change?
The majority of us will launch right into the advantages and disadvantages of change first (Box 2). This is natural human behaviour, where we take on the “cheerleading” OR ”pain mongering” role and it is NOT the best strategy. People feel you are trying to “sell” them on the change and they become cynical. If I’m resisting change, I’m in the fear focus. I’m thinking, “How will this impact me?” (Box 2). And I’m stuck thinking “but I like it this way” (Box 4). People don’t ask questions about the change because of: fear, the need for more time to process the change, and/or the belief that ”It’s a done deal.”
Robert suggests using his “Strategic Influencing 4-Box Model” of change as follows:
- Box 1: When change is imminent it is important to start with a compelling case for “WHY change.” This gets their attention and they will listen. Remember to reflect on the reasons for “WHY change” from the other person’s perspective.
- Box 2: Next go to the “cheerleading” or benefits of change and how you’ll get there together but only briefly. You can go back to this later.
- Box 3: Then proceed to talking about the impact to them as individuals, and as a team. This is what individuals focus on. Validate and acknowledge emotions. Spend lots of time here and outline how you will support them through the change.
- Box 4: Then talk about what stays the same. This helps people celebrate what is being preserved. People like tradition and are comforted by familiarity.
This is the best approach because it feels like the change manager spent time figuring out how it impacts people as individuals. You can go back to describing the benefits again AND how you’ll get there together. With change it is always best to put the elephant in the room to be addressed versus ignoring it. Using the 4-box change model has a calming effect. It lets people see a transition where there are highs and lows, culminating in acceptance. It is the journey you will all take together.
An added benefit of using Robert Harris’s change model is that it helps determine if change should happen in the first place. And we actually used Robert’s awesome change model in groups, talking through a real life change initiative. As part of our group debrief we noted that the discussions we had using the change model, helped us work through things that we might not have thought about and it promoted healthy open communication.
Robert Harris, author of Change Leadership – Inform, Involve, Ignite, definitely needs a super session the next time he presents at the HRPA conference. It was great to actually get a change to “use” the change model tool during the session, but we needed more time.
What change are you implementing now or in the future? Try using the tool. It works.
Posted by Joanne Royce
Photo Credit: Robert Harris, Strategic Influencing 4-Box Model (Used with permission)