Great work! As you evaluate the scores from your team members use the following descriptions of each element to develop your action plan. This planning will help you facilitate your team member’s adoption of the changes.
Comprehension. Too many times when changes occur leaders overlook or disregard the importance of developing comprehension amongst the people impacted. Comprehension is built over time, even for the most well designed changes. This means that a proper amount of time and sufficient resources must be brought to bear in developing comprehension. When an individual comprehends a change she:
- Knows why the change is happening and happening now
- Understands the impact the change will have on her and those that she works with
- Knows the risk and rewards of the change’s success to herself and the organization
- Knows how the change fits into the larger strategy and vision of the organization
- Knows the priority of the change when viewed along with other changes underway
Gathering this information and assimilating it personally is not an event; it is a process. This means that comprehension is built deliberately and with the utmost regard to the individual’s preferred methods and patterns of communication.
One of the fundamental skills in communication is to know the communication styles of those being impacted. The best way to understand communication style is to engage people in one of the many tools for understanding temperament. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC or one of the other myriad tools will help individuals, managers, leaders and communication specialists craft and deliver a sequence of messages through various media with a significant level of repetition so that people can fully comprehend the change.
As comprehension builds so does the need to move to commitment; but realize that for large, long-term changes the revisiting of comprehension is important for two reasons. An individual’s comprehension can wane over time as other changes and disruptions occur. Sometimes the individual’s comprehension is keen at the start of the change but as details emerge the comprehension can diminish. Consequently, never assume that comprehension once achieved is a checkbox to be marked as complete. Comprehension ebbs and flows as the change work is rolled out and will require a leader to be engaged throughout the process.
Commitment. While comprehension is relatively simple to gain for a well-constructed change, commitment is the individual’s personal choice and is more difficult. Commitment must be earned and ultimately given by the individual. This makes it the pivotal component of the individual change model. Put plainly, you cannot force a person to commit to a change.
The choice to embrace and actively support a change can be large for some people and for others, quite small. There will be various levels of commitment but for a change to be successful an individual must demonstrate at least the minimal level of commitment. Without some commitment the change will suffer and ultimately fail to deliver its intended benefits. There are three levels of commitment:
- Willingness to accommodate the change individually and organizationally even though the change is not individually preferential.
- Support for the change and an interest in seeing the benefits of the change accrue to the organization.
- Active engagement in the change process and outcomes. The change represents a personal preference.
Based on these levels of commitment you can see why comprehension is so important. People need information to consciously formulate their level of commitment.
The key to developing commitment at an individual level is to clearly state the individual benefits of the change. Every human being acts on individual interests and that must be addressed to achieve commitment. The change must be meaningful at the individual level. This is commonly referred to as “what’s in it for me” or WIIFM. Sometimes what is in it for me is what is in it for us. In other words, there may be personal gain or it could be that the change will make our team or organization better and by the team and the organization improving so will the individual. Regardless of the nature of the meaning, there must be meaning.
To make commitment even more challenging each person potentially has a different set of intrinsic motivators that the managers must understand in order to unlock commitment. The work of Steven Reiss has given rise to 16 intrinsic motivators and an assessment for determining those at an individual level. Use of this tool with impacted individuals can be enlightening to the mangers, change leaders and those impacted.
Capability. Once an individual has committed to the change then the steps of developing the person’s capability can begin. This third and last step in the individual change engagement process is critical to the success of the individual and is the key to the organization’s realization of benefits. In other words, even if the people comprehend and commit to the change, without capability there will be no success. In this stage individuals:
- Learn the skills necessary for operation in the new changed environment
- Apply the new skills successfully
- Demonstrate the competency needed to sustain the change in the organization
Capability takes time and resources. Learning new skills, being able to apply those skills and then sustain proficiency is challenging and there are many things that can delay and or derail change. Most individuals do well in skill development and in application but many times organizations assume that the events of training and application automatically lead to sustained competency and they do not.
Individuals must be given time to practice the new way of “doing” until it becomes rote. The sustainability of application is critical to benefit realization. The benefits of the change are rarely gained as quickly as the organization wants, and so it has been my experience that once the change has “gone live” the organization moves onto the next change never fully gaining the benefits as intended. Fatigue sets in when the volume, velocity and complexity of the changes people experience exceeds their capacity. That fatigue leads to low morale and ultimately to changes that don’t deliver their intended benefits.
Chris, as you lead yourself and your team through the challenges and changes ahead never forget that all change is individual and all individual change requires leadership. I hope this helps. If you have any questions, please let me know. I am here to help.