Your question regarding how to address the organizational changes you face from shifting client expectations challenged me to respond with an approach for you as a leader. Here are my initial thoughts that will allow you and the team to thrive in your current dynamics.
Just like all politics are local, all change is individual. This reality has enormous implications for the manner in which you tackle changes. Some leaders (of which you are not one) view change as purely mechanical. They focus exclusively on making sure the change is installed properly. Of course the mechanics of change are important, but of equal or perhaps even greater importance, is the fact that all change is individual; and organizational change is, at its best, the sum of individual changes. This should cause you to pause and consider two questions. How effectively have you engaged people individually during change historically and how much are you willing to do so in the future? If your answer to the former is that you have done well or poorly you are in good company. If your answer to the latter is that you are not willing to focus on change at the individual level, then you will be missing perhaps the largest opportunity presenting itself to your team. Successful change assumes the individual is the focus of the change process.
Change happens in the brain before it happens in the body and it happens in powerful and often oppositional ways. The brain is the locus of emotion and rational response to change. As a leader you may think of yourself as highly rational, making decisions based on data and not falling prey to the trap of emotions. Brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch share a powerful image of change being like an elephant with a rider. The rider is the intellect; the rational nature of the person, while the elephant represents the emotions of the individual. The Heath’s colorful illustration sets the proper perspective on the ratio of the two. You must appeal to the rider in order to make sense of the change and you must appeal to the elephant to garner “buy-in” for the change. Ignoring one or the other of these two responses puts the benefits of your change at risk.
This letter alone won’t be enough to equip you to lead change. You will need to read others’ publications to round out your understanding and ability. Leading change has its origins in the sciences of anthropology and psychology and I would encourage you to consider the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and William Bridges. Their writing is invaluable toward understanding people’s experience through loss. In addition to these works, recent science teaches how neurological and temperamental factors influence how your people will experience change.
Look to the work of David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz as foundational to your understanding of what is happening in the brain when a person encounters a new environment. Their work documents how the executive functions of the brain (the portion needed to process change) require vast amounts of energy from the body. As that part of the brain is operating in its consumptive manner it is telling itself and the individual to stop the activity that is taking so much energy. It suggests that the person may simply return to the already mastered behaviors because the ingrained behaviors (habits) of an individual require almost no energy to perform. Their proposition (and they are right) is that to the brain, change is painful.
You need to be a student of temperament. Consider the contributions of personality pioneers Carl Jung and Isabel Myers and the countless others that have provided us tools to understand human temperament. The longer I work with people the more I am convinced of the powerful role individual temperament plays in our successes and our conflicts. Since change offers the opportunity for both, you will be well to become a student of your own temperament and that of those you lead. Finally digest the work of Steven Reiss (Who Am I) and Daniel Pink (Drive). Both enlighten us regarding what motivates people.