Choice is the logical next step when people ask for greater transparency as part of the changing nature of change. Including choice in the change process overturns traditional views of change management where choice is not really an option, particularly after you have been through the X steps of the change process. Reality is somewhat different as people always have a choice and any modern change process has to recognize this.
Choice is a driving factor in getting workforce and customer enrollment behind new products, processes and ideas. In the past choice involved providing incentives for people to change, bonus payments, special enticements etc. Consider the current policies and history of nation building by the U.S. and you see the mixed results of this approach.
Many executives viewed such premiums as dishonest and unnecessary. They held this view either from a paternalistic perspective – it is their job to do what we tell them, or from a financial/legal perspective – if we do this now, they will come to expect it every time we want to change.
Change has always been a social phenomenon. Here are some ideas about how choice influences the change process:
- People will choose so structure your communications and change processes around the decisions they have to make (the context) rather than what will be different (the content). When all you do is lead with how things will be different you inflate the level of change and emphasis the implication that current practices are wrong practices.
- Giving people honorable alternatives can lead them to make tough choices. Modern change initiatives, based on burning platforms, offer a choice akin to ‘put up or shut up’ also know as FIFO — fall in or fall out — or – fit in or #$%& off. When you give people no options and no honorable way out, they will comply and do what you tell them, but they will never choose and be waiting to return the favor.
- Choices are highly influenced by social and other factors, so it’s a good idea to study the brain and the mechanisms related to choice. Here is a link to some of the best “brain-science” books I have read.
Leaders can easily see change in terms of the need to change, what to change to and the reasons for change. They are often mystified when people have that all that information and still do not change. Traditional change leadership models view this as either stubbornness or a lack of information so they recommend turning up the volume on communications and messaging. “After all, if they only knew what I knew and did what I want them to do then change would not be a problem.” But, change is a problem simply because everyone has choice.
Leaders who recognize choice know that it is great when people choose to come along. It is also natural and normal that some people will choose another path. Real leaders recognize the need to have those people leave the company as they have made a choice and so must the company. That works when the workforce is given honorable alternatives that can and should include separate packages.
Choice is the crucible of change. Without choice there is not real change, with choice you gain the level of adoption required to get real results. That is the last part of this series of posts on the changing nature of change – the change itself.