I was recently working with the leaders of an organization engaged in a large process and technology change. The project team wisely decided to include a focus on the human aspects of this change they were installing. In other words they were concerned about whether the people impacted by the changes would adopt the changes and how quickly that adoption would take place.
Because we spend a great deal of time understanding, teaching and advising clients on the human aspects of change I showed up for the day-long event loaded with all sorts of research, models and tools to help the leaders adopt the change and to help them lead their teams toward adoption as well.
In the final minutes of my preparation I decided to include a graphic I used long ago that depicts the emotional process a person navigates when a change occurs. This process comes from the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her book, On Death and Dying. In 1969 Kübler-Ross put in plain terms the process of human grief. The grief process was then adopted for work with organizational change because organizational change often entails a sense of individual loss and grief.
The emotional aspects of change for individuals are real and understandable but I had quit using this graphic some years ago, falsely thinking that “everyone” had heard or seen some version of this process. I presumed that we “all” had moved on to the tactics for dealing with individual change. I was wrong.
As I conducted the workshops for our client and smoothly worked from one to slide to another one of the participants stopped me and ask me to show again the change process illustration. She commented that it was particularly helpful and then the whole audience chimed in that this was the best visual in the whole presentation. Although I did not let the audience know at that time, I was shocked. Including that illustration had been an after thought for me and yet very powerful for the audience. In fact the leaders decided to display this illustration in their upcoming technical training sessions so people could identify where they were stood in the process.
The larger reminder for all of us as leaders is to remember the fundamentals. When we lose sight of the fundamentals we run the risk of leaving people behind. It reminds me of the story about legendary coach John Wooden who began each year’s basketball team practice with a lesson on how to properly tie shoes. His focus on the player’s fundamentals (proper shoe tying) was something Wooden did not leave to chance.
As leaders we need to consistently reinforce the fundamentals even as we lead our teams to new heights.