Growth means change. By its very nature, organizational change is an emotional endeavor. When we institute change we have an effect on individuals. Because of this we have an obligation as change leaders to provide tools to help our employees thrive in the changing environment. This article introduces Change Breakthrough Analysis, a technique that is very powerful in helping people begin to be productive relative to our change initiative. This tool, as with many change related tools, has broader application in the personal and professional lives of people, but we will focus here on the application during organizational change.
The basis for this approach is rooted in quantum physics. Although we won’t discuss the more scientific aspects of this approach here we will allude to the parallels between the science basis and the human dynamics of organizational change. One principle we will use for illustration is that matter is made up of charged particles of light. These light particles have varying levels of positive and negative charges. We might say that the response of someone who is very agitated or excited is highly charged.
Organizational change is an emotional undertaking. Emotion can disorder our thoughts. Have you noticed that some of the more negative reactions to change aren’t that logical? It’s difficult to argue these points due to their lack of structure. If we can somehow order these thoughts we can create a cohesive force working in the direction of the change.
Picture a pendulum framed in a triangle. The swinging of the pendulum at the bottom of the triangle represents the initial emotional reactions of an employee as they first learn about the change. The pendulum swings broadly, caused by the highly charged reaction based upon the employee’s perception – both positively and negatively. The reactions swing wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. At this stage the employee does not recognize the inherent balance of the positive and negative impact of the change. They are functioning locally and lack a holistic perspective.
As time passes, more information is obtained and thoughts are ordered, the employee moves up along this spectrum. As the employee moves up the spectrum the width of the pendulum swings are less dramatic. As the employee finds the balance of positive and negative impact and the charge is reduced, the employee moves up the spectrum and they experience an increased enlightenment and a more complete perspective.
How do you as the change leader dissolve the charge? The notion of exploring the positive and negative aspects of the change help dissolve the emotional charges associated with the change. This exploration also gives people something productive to do which shifts their focus from the solely emotional aspects of change. We move from unstructured thought to structured thought, bringing balance and moving toward greater certainty about the employees’ role in the change initiative.
A structured exercise to facilitate the achievement of balance is referred to as the Change Collapse. Collapse is a process of reconciliation and synthesis – when two oppositely charged human emotions come together, join, transform, transcend, and emerge in a new form, one in greater balance. This sounds extremely complex and its origin is. But in practice the process is actually quite simple.
An example: The collapse process seeks to identify the positive and negative impacts of a situation. For each participant, identify the benefits and the drawbacks for each of the following two questions:
- What happens if I support the change?
- What happens if I don’t support the change?
The change collapse process should be applied to all stakeholders in our change initiatives. You can then accentuate the benefits for supporting the change and the drawbacks for not supporting the change in all communications and coalition building activities.
The right questions facilitated by the change leader are critical. Some example questions:
- What exactly is terrific and terrible about the change initiative?
- What made you believe that about the change initiative?
- Who made you believe that about the change initiative?
- When did you begin to believe that about the change initiative?
- Where did you begin to believe that about the change initiative?
- Why do you believe that about the change initiative?
- How does this belief about the change initiative help and hinder you?
The process described in this article is referred to as Change Breakthrough Analysis because employing these techniques in your organization can provide a true breakthrough as employees begin to instantly recognize change as an opportunity.