You know this: you want a change in the company and the management appoints an employee as a change agent (without management power). If you look back at this change officer after a few months, you can see a stressed and sad person and in the company the change may have progressed by 5%. Maybe you are?

Change in the company is not easy and I often talk to blog readers who ask me for help with their own change project. There is good news and bad news. The bad thing is: you can’t get against certain barriers in the company without power and need a manager to help and due is good: for everything else I put together great frameworks at the end of the article.

Resistance and change

Look at the figure below. You notice that we usually solidify in a state (comfort zone). We usually leave these only when the pressure of change (green) is stronger than our resistance.

Change Model Lewin
Change model according to Lewin

Kurt Lewin then discovered in 1947 that a change only takes place when the force of the need for change is stronger than that of habit. In doing so, employees roughly go through three phases: thawing: In the thawing phase, in which the pressing forces gain over power, after a shock of the employees, the change begins to be perceived. Change: Changes are made during the move phase and the new is tried. Freeze: By the third phase we mean the re-establishment and acclimatization to the new situation.

Now you are wondering: How can this model help me? I would like to tell you that change in organisation is based on pressure. There are two ways to do this:

  • Management puts massive pressure on employees
  • The company has poor numbers and employees are afraid for the job

Proactive changes with arguments such as: We have to see that we still have the success of today tomorrow, there are usually rare.

Reading tip: Types of changes in the company

Management support is the most important thing!

Every change in the company requires pressure or management support. It is much easier for me to make changes as a department head at the moment than before, as I was only a consultant for change officers without direct power. These were often very little successful and frustrated after some time without management support.

Why management doesn’t support

But why did these commissioners not receive support? In good times of growth, companies tend to put decisions on the back burner, because we are doing well! There is simply no need!

As a result, no change develops in the companies and you can actually leave it directly. Have a good day and publish a few powerpoints from time to time. It is simply too difficult to change core processes without support in management. They are then an alibi project, so that one can say: yes we do, for example, scrum, but still need at the introduction. However, the manager secretly does not want it to be finished but is at least forced to do so by external pressure.

If you want to try, talk openly with the manager and use the following arguments, which have at least helped me in 2 out of 50 cases:

  • Make it clear that every decision leads to conflict and always involves risks
  • There is nothing worse than not to decide. This is a renunciation of an active shaping of the future.
  • Changes can only be implemented with power.

Coaches as managers are not always optimal in the crisis

A second aspect is also managers, who over the years see themselves only as coaches. They take care of the development of their employees unilaterally. But it is also a goal to generate profit. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made for this.

Crises make it clear what is really important. We have often dealt with the wrong or minor issues. Have postponed deep changes because they are too unpleasant. We often only become aware of this when yields fall. We have done a lot of coaching before and consensus is suddenly decided in the really deep change process only with power.

Changes must first be applied by management and pressure must be generated. Managers often tend to have someone tasked with changing and then the issue is done for you. But just as a manager, you have to take the first step and then pull in or lead the change team.

Intermediate conclusion: Change must come from above!

At least if the following prerequisite is met: The management wants the change, you will grab all the resistance and press pressure to get employees to implement it.

I assure you that profound changes will only be successful if the management or a manager is behind you. I even go so far as to say: if not, don’t start!

They need power in the background that creates pressure and eliminates blockers. When an employee tells you: No! If I don’t feel like it, then you, as the commissioner, can’t do anything about it. He needs the pressure of his boss.

Because all change projects in companies show one thing: they are only successful if the top management consistently uses the power conferged on it to make the necessary decisions and initiate the associated processes.

Now comes the problem: your management needs to dework a lot of time and energy to keep the pressure on hold. Cosy managers often have no desire or a short breath. After 4 weeks, the help suddenly decreases.

Surely this “exercise power” and “pressure” sounds a bit authoritarian to you. But there is a certain situation, such as phase 1 (thaw) in the Model of Lewin, which needs this power. By putting pressure on managers, they only carry out their task of being a manager. Then in phase 2 of Lewin you don’t need any more pressure, because the stone has been set in motion!

Reading tip: Convincing management

Surely one or the other coach will now come up with arguments: Change must be supported by the employees and this can also come from “below”. Sure, that’s the case but what does a change from below or a change agent do? He convinces the management and gets the “power” from above. Unfortunately, we continue to live in a fairly classic and hierarchical system.

Create emotional insight and know change processes!

“When the wind of change blows, some build walls and the other windmills (Chinese proverb). In particular, the introduction of virtual teams is causing a lot of change and also rejection among some employees. Each employee goes through 7 steps until the change is accepted. Some employees go through them in seconds and others in years. Look at the following figure.

Change model prank
Model of prank for change management

Phase 1: Shock

The need for change creates a shock from fear of a new situation. This leads to an inability to rationally reflect the change. My recommendation during this time: communicate the change and then let the employees digest the shock for 1-2 weeks in peace. They are simply announcing that new changes are being introduced.

Phase 2: Rejection

After the shock, there is a strong rejection. You notice this phase because employees start talking negatively about the change. At this stage, as a leader, you should help employees understand why the change is being made and thus prepare Phase 3. Explain the drivers of the change. See yourself as a lawyer for change.

Phase 3: Rational Insight

After realizing that rejection against change does not help, employees start to deal with the change rationally. They start weighing up benefits, including initial information on change and want to take the first short-term steps to implement them. However, at this stage, you will not communicate initial information about how to implement the change, but you will not communicate the entire plan.

The difference between rational and emotional insight can be illustrated very well by the example of a gym. I realize I’m too fat because of data like body weight (rational insight) but I don’t go to the gym because I don’t want it (emotional insight).

Phase 4: Emotional Insight

Emotional insight is the real turning point and it means staying tuned as a leader. Employees begin to become familiar with the change and are open. It is important to grant concrete project plans and initial test access to possible software tools at this stage.

Phase 5: Learning

The employees have accepted the change and are starting to test the new software tools and virtual working methods. Share initial training on software and methods, as well as initial written guidelines for employees. Also, let first teams work with the new processes or software tools.

Phase 6: Knowledge

If the employees in Phase 5 have fast achieved successes with the software tools, they will very quickly make the changes gradually into their everyday life. Hire a nice administrator for assistance with the use of the software and ask for feedback new processes by a process manager.

Phase 7: Integration

Now the new software tools and working methods are taken for granted. Your task as a manager is now like a kind of “super-teacher” to monitor whether the new working methods are still being adhered to after 2-3 weeks and to avoid relapses into old behaviors.

My tip: Scan exactly which phase you are in and react correctly! At the beginning, you defend the change and only start after phase 3 or 4 with initial process documentation. Before that, you only make advertising provide the necessary pressure by the management. I notice that the main point is often that change officers react completely wrongly at certain stages, thereby overburdening the workforce and also themselves.

Conclusion and reading tips

Many managers fall into change processes from one extreme to another. Accordingly, their change representatives are unsettled and the resistance in the company is correspondingly massive. It doesn’t matter if the change comes from above or below: you need the power of management!

Frameworks in particular provide good orientation for change processes. Many commissioners start completely without this scientific knowledge in a change and despair at the complexity. I hope my tips will help you and i would like to give you some reading tips:

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/ver%C3%A4 change-arrow-clouds-sky-948024/

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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