Fifteen months ago at the UCISA CISG-PCMG Conference in Brighton November 2016, one of the final keynotes: Jonathan Macdonald (@jmacdonald ) talked about how to build an effective environment for change. He challenged the audience by saying that when we look back in twenty years’ time, the period of change we’ve had in the past five years will feel like steady times. Jonathan’s premise was that politically, economically, socially and technically the future will dramatically increase the change momentum. I’m inclined to agree.
Change can be energising! Change can be exciting! I suspect that most change practitioners believe this to a certain point. However, change requires dedication, challenge, ongoing snagging issues that need to be addressed, problem solving, motivating others and lots of action. Implementing change carries the very real risk of staff burn out.
I think it’s time to consider change fatigue. Good old wiki defines organizational change fatigue as “a general sense of apathy or passive resignation towards organizational changes by individuals or teams.” Personally, I think the definition should also encompass tiredness; staff involved in making change happen along with business as usual sometimes just get tired out.
So, what might we do to address change fatigue? Here are a few ideas to get us started:
· Start talking about change fatigue, bring the issue to the forefront.
· Actively prioritise large change projects, so that only the critical few proceed.
· Create a culture of continuous improvement: smaller, simpler changes are usually more palatable and easier to implement.
· Use/create a change map to ensure that there is understanding and clarity about how many change projects are currently happening and a clear pipeline of change activity.
· Stop managing change as a collection of projects. Instead view change as an interconnected journey the organization is taking and lead and manage accordingly.
· Every change you initiate, regardless of its size, needs to begin with an intended outcome and benefit. The vision and intended benefits need to be understood and meaningful to the people affected.
· Involve the right people in identifying and implementing change.
· Use data to drive identification, prioritisation and implementation of change.
· Create time for people to engage in the changes – this requires clear senior prioritisation of non-essential activities.
· Try to make the change predictable (and positive), it is often unexpected change that people find most difficult.
· Ensure that effective change resistance surveys are carried out.
· Effective management of people who actively or passively block changes.
· Encourage a problem solving culture.
· Reward people who support and implement changes.
I appreciate that some of these suggestions are time-consuming and possibly challenging, but it is really important to ensure robust foundations for our change platforms.
I’d be really interested in hearing about some of the activities other people are supporting in order to address this