Changing whilst you change

March 13th, 2019

In her final blog in a Leadership and Management Academy (LMA) series looking at change management, Jaspal Kaur, Director of HR, explores the need to view change as a dynamic and discursive process that requires flexibility, adaptability and empathy to succeed:

“In my previous posts I’ve talked about the need to consider the emotional aspects of change and touched on the complexity of the challenges we face. In this final post of the series I wanted to look at how we can bring these strands together.

One of the messages that Vice-Chancellor Shearer West draws out in the videos that are part of the Leadership and Management Academy’s new change management resources is the concept of change as “a dynamic and discursive process”. Viewing change in this way gives us the opportunity to think beyond a mindset of change being a planned and managed approach which might initially be disruptive and then lead to stability towards a mindset of change being something that is continual, often uncertain, although something in which we can all play a part.

In this approach to change, whilst the desired destination might be known, the route to get there is determined through on-going discussion and an openness to ideas; it emerges in an agile way based on the knowledge expertise and abilities of the people affected. When we approach change in this frame of mind resistance is reduced because ownership of the change and the way it happens has the space to be empathetic to the needs of those affected by the change.

Along the way things may change as new knowledge or situations emerge, and the destination may need to be adjusted. Leaders need to be open to this, and comfortable to adapt to the situation. The need for change still exists, and things will still change, but the way we get to the destination (and sometimes the destination itself) is informed by what happens along the way.

This open approach needs to be applied in a balanced way, which is why empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is so important. If we’re acting with empathy, we’re understanding people’s reactions and taking on their points of view in an objective way, it’s about being able to spot the difference between people being uncomfortable with change and something being wrong with what you’re doing.

We need to ensure that we keep open our channels of communication, communicating the future vision and need for change, and ensuring that everyone is well informed about what’s going on.

Finally, as individuals we have to think about how we become more comfortable with uncertainty, how we increase our capacity to be adaptive, and how we make time to really listen to one another. It isn’t easy and it’s likely to be our biggest challenge. By understanding and adjusting our own responses to change is often the first step that can be taken.

And so, we have the opportunity to enhance the way that change is managed at the University, to build on our inherent strengths and to put ourselves in a position to take advantage of future opportunities. The resources that the Leadership and Management Academy have designed aim to help you to understand change and the approaches that work, and tools to put into practice when you’re facing change.”

Want to learn more? Visit the Leadership and Management Academy. You can also take a look at the other posts in this mini-series about change management:

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One Comment

April 1st, 2019 at 9:30 am

Dave Sirl

“it’s about being able to spot the difference between people being uncomfortable with change and something being wrong with what you’re doing.”

This seems very apt for UoN, even if a few years too late. I wonder is there a part of “change management” which is about understanding the need for change and the type of change that’s required?

From what I see it seems mostly to be about managers trying to get the managed to accept whatever change the manager deems appropriate; with no mention of the manager trying to understand their managees and put in the time to get the change right in the first place. If done effectively this would of course obviate the need for managing the change in such an active way, since the managees will feel a part of the change themselves and will actively want to implement/help/troubleshoot as the change is implemented.

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