At a recent conference, participants wanted to know:

• What is the pace of change? When is too much, too much?
• Is change better if done quickly, or more slowly?

Surveys indicate too much change is the cause of project failure. Initiative overload can be the reason your project may fail. So, the pace of change is a complicated issue. There are two components to making organizational change work; one is the successful implementation of the course of action and the other is its acceptance by those involved. There can be a great difference between the pace of implementation and the pace of acceptance. Implementation is mostly about the mechanics of change and its pace is managed by a systematic approach that can be scheduled. However, acceptance of the change is about people and their readiness for change. This is more complex because it deals with emotions and you cannot schedule that.

You can however influence the speed of acceptance by providing an on-going dialogue to:

• Hear and address people’s concerns as they happen (and get ahead of the rumor mill).
• Alleviate their fears when you can or confirm things that they need to know to make informed choices about their life and future.
• Give information about the business reasons for the changes and how you plan to deal with them.
• Answer their questions the best you can (sometimes, several times) and let them know if you don’t have an answer to a question. Get back to them when you know.
• Teach people skills to deal with the uncertainties of change and give them tools to mange change at a personal level.
• Involve them in the process of change as much as you can. People can work through change better when they feel they can have some impact on its direction.

The more you invest in genuine and authentic communication with your people and involve them in finding solutions, the more you can shape the direction of change. This will encourage people to buy-in to the changes that have to be made, which in turn can speed up the pace of change.

However, the most effective and long term approach is to have a change-ready organization where employees perceive change as an ongoing part of the business and are equipped to deal with it.

In short, a change-ready organization consists of teams that:

• Understand the business of the organization beyond just the viewpoint of their personal jobs.
• Are clear about the organization’s challenges and opportunities.
• Know their interdependencies with other people and groups within and outside the organization.
• Recognize their role and importance in the effectiveness of their organization.
• Are trained in social and interaction team skills so they can support each other through emotional challenges that are presented by change.
• Are taught the technical team skills that help them shift their paradigms, solve problems and find the opportunities offered by change.
• Feel and act as mini-business owners within the context of the organization.

The leadership team in a change-ready organization not only practices these team skills but also sets the tone for the culture of openness and caring that is the cradle for the organization’s effectiveness. They value the inherent worth in every employee and allow that belief to guide their actions and policies. Through genuinely caring behaviors, they connect to their employees at the human level and prove that they are worthy of their trust. They are aware that a great deal of fear disappears when trust appears. The leadership of these organizations understands that their greatest opponent in managing change is “fear”, which manifests itself in a variety of behaviors labeled as resistance. They know how to lower the resistance by lowering the fears.

Finally, change-ready organizations pay attention to their supporting systems (such as accountability, performance, empowerment, compensation, etc.) to ensure they provide enough flexibility to facilitate quick and effective communications, decisions, and actions which are required for successful change.

By: Afsaneh Noori
Tampa, FL
© Socio-Tech Systems Inc. 2009 All Rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Afsaneh Noori is the Founder and President of Socio-Tech Systems Inc. (STS), a consulting firm that supports organizations in 1) Creating balanced strategies for transformational change; 2) Enhancing leadership skills to manage change and resistance with compassion; and 3) Providing tools for employees to deal with change effectively. STS employs an integrated change model that focuses both on technical and human aspects of sustainable change in organizations. Her client list includes Essilor of America, NORTEL, City of Tampa and TECO Energy, among others.
Iranian born and raised, Afsaneh and her immediate family moved to the United States when she was 20 years old. Having to quickly learn a new culture and language became the basis of her deep interest in change dynamics and management. She attended the University of South Florida, where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering.

Afsaneh Noori’s childhood was marked by the limitations placed on Moslem women. Support of her progressive family allowed her to questions these inequalities and to rise above the restrictive beliefs of her culture.

Afsaneh uses her personal changes and her extensive experience with organizational change to help individuals and organizational leaders to navigate the process of change. In addition to organizational consulting, she offers personal coaching, speaking and public workshops for “thriving in change”.

Afsaneh is the Author of “Change Thrivers” resource book.