Tuesday 22 September 2020
Founder Motion5

How to successfully guide organizational change

Organizations, like people, change all the time. “You cannot step into the same river twice”, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus would say. In this white paper Peter Rademakers (founder) and Frijke Weeda (Director, psychologist) will share Motion5’s vision on how to successfully guide organizational change.

How to successfully guide organizational change

A tremendous amount of research has been done on the topic of guiding organizational change. On top of that, there are countless examples of failed and successful change initiatives from the marketplace. Motion5 has studied both sources. The result: our very own, practical model of change.

Why is this topic relevant? Well, understanding how change works yields two quick wins. First, the ability to anticipate and counter common vulnerabilities of change initiatives. Second, a model of change that prevents you from wasting effort on change initiatives that are doomed to fail. These two benefits can be put to good use, whatever your position in the organization. With that, let’s first look at the challenges that many organizations are facing today.


Why is change so hard?

There are a few reasons why change initiatives are not easy to execute. For instance, our psychology dictates us to resent the prospect of losing something. Sadly enough, change is often communicated in such a way that it seems to result in losing what you currently know and have. When this perception takes hold, resistance grows and the chances of effective implementation are sharply reduced.

Another common obstacle is the fact that organizations struggle with presenting a coherent change initiative. Managers often resort to so-called ‘point solutions’, acting as though change initiatives can be carried out in isolation of ‘outside’ factors. This type of approach reflects an over-simplification of how organizational change works. Indeed, point solutions often end up unfinished and hurting the organization by frustrating the people involved and by not producing the desired results.


Best practices

So how can change be handled? Let’s start with a premise: organizations don’t move, but people do. The key is to understand how people interact with organizational change. You need a holistic view that recognizes the interdependencies between various aspects of change. To structure these considerations, we developed the Motion5 Model of Change. This model has been around for 18 years already and has been the foundation of over 100 international Commercial Excellence (ComEx) projects. That makes it a best practice that goes far beyond theory.


The Motion5 Model of Change consists of the following 5 principles: Strategy & vision, Process & Structure, Skills, Mindset and Leadership. In order to set people in motion it is crucial to look at these 5 elements. Let’s briefly consider each principle.


1. Strategy & Vision: the starting point

People need to understand their company’s strategy and vision, translated to clear goals and objectives. If they don’t, very soon people will set their own. Goals are like vitamins: they are a necessity, and especially fruitful when they are connected to people’s talents. Small goals result in small movements, while ambitious goals create excitement and real momentum. The trick is to define result-driven goals on departmental-, team- and individual level.


2. Process & Structure: connecting tasks and company

Suppose your organization has defined a commercial strategy and ambitious goals. What happens next? The first thing most people think of is putting in place supportive structures as a precondition to carry out the strategy. This is part of our tendency to think in terms of systems whenever we try to solve problems or try to make sense of the world. However, there is a common mistake regarding these supportive structures that prevents many managers from keeping their eyes on the prize. The problem is not making sure that the supportive structures are there; the problem is in endlessly focusing on them.


So, why does this keep happening?

In our experience, systems, processes and tools become easy targets – or scapegoats – whenever people struggle to carry out the tasks that the change requires of them. For example, criticism of a new CRM system is easy because it’s an external, impersonal factor. Systems and structures are so-called ‘hygiene factors’.

Like refrigerators, we don’t notice it when they work, but when they don’t, we become very frustrated. That makes them a popular target for complaining; attracting criticism like a lightning rod. It’s important to realize that the real source of frustration is often found elsewhere. Nevertheless, systems, structures and processes are a necessary part to run any organization successfully and are thus part of the equation when guiding organizational change.


3. Skills: connecting tasks to personality

Beyond strategy and supportive structures, every organization depends on the talent of its human capital. Do the people in the organization have the competencies to make the desired change? An interesting dilemma for many top managers: do I need to hire new people with the required capabilities, or can I train and motivate my existing staff to change their behavior or to learn new capabilities.

The alternative is to adjust your ambition level. This is often difficult because you run the risk of losing your competitive position. Some top managers are bound by internal rules and procedures or labor laws that have a strong delaying effect on upgrading human talent. We often see hybrid solutions as best a practice, where the organization not only hires new people, but also carefully invests in the existing workforce. Learning and development is the ultimate key for enduring success.


4. Mindset: the harmonizing factor

Let’s assume the talent is there. What about motivation? Do we have a clear idea of what drives people in their work? For the answer we can look to various psychological studies, which show a strong relationship between motivation and the extent to which someone understands how their talents contribute to the company’s success. Moreover, the more visible the link between talent and company success, the higher the motivation. Beyond motivation, what drives a person to change? According to a study by the University of Boston people do not change because it’s required. People change because they want to and have made the decision to do so.


The best way to foster this decision is to involve people in the change project and get them on the same page. This may sound soft, but it has hard implications. After all, investments become that much more effective when people are eager and motivated. That way, you need to worry less about control and systems and procedures; people proactively contribute to the company’s success. In short, it saves money, effort and disappointment. Click here to read more about the importance of mindset in guiding organizational change.


5. (Personal) Leadership

There’s a saying from motivational speaker Anthony Robbins: “It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”. The decision to act is not a single choice, but a continuously recurring choice. When goals, ‘hygiene factors’, talent and motivation are in place, you need execution power and leadership to follow through on the chosen direction.

This power does not reside in some abstract place, but rests firmly in the hands of the people who choose to use it. This is where personal leadership comes in, especially for key players; leaders who should drive the change. This is as much needed in the actual implementation as it is in managing the process. After all, who wants to follow a leader who is unsure about the direction he wants to go and unconfident about the team’s ability to get there?


At its finest, personal leadership reflects a so-called ‘+/+ mindset’. This mindset is the psychological modus operandi, or way of working, that serves as the accelerator when guiding organizational change. With a +/+ mindset, managers and key players are aware of their talents and the talents of those around them, while staying sharp and eager to challenge assumptions.

Especially with important decisions, it’s essential to go beyond trusting your intuition and to verify your assumptions. That way, the quality and effectiveness of decision-making and consequent productivity is much improved.

In closing

Unfortunately, many good change initiatives are cancelled before completion. A holistic view, while crucial, does not guarantee succes when guiding organizational change. Especially the interdependencies between change principles will help us understand the dynamics of change. It is essential for success to develop an integral, coherent and consistent approach to make it easier to prepare for change, to defend it and to execute it. “Leadership is about believing in your ability to shape your own success. Managing is making sure you do so in an effective way”. Both are vital for the successful implementation of change initiatives. With the 5 principles of change, we set your company in motion: Motion5.

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