While recently attending a conference at the Washington D.C. Head Quarts of SHRM, I saw an interesting curve that is used to implement change. The instructor was 100% accurate that implementing change means ending something. Then people enter an area called the “neutral zone” and finally with success a new beginning.
Well, another way to look at it is from the perspective of a rider on a roller coaster. Some roller coasters are tall and long and others are short and quick; however, all of them have the same physical mechanisms in common from start to end. Now, let’s entwine business change into the picture. Initially, the management team determines there is a business case for change. It may be caused by unexpected changes in the environment, where you change or face major financial problems. The needs assessment is where you begin your case for change and your organization, and employees, enter the queue for the roller coaster ride. While going through the queue your organizations leadership should begin to meet with key stake holders and employees to set out the business case for change. Why is this necessary? Why deviate from the normal base line?
A leadership team creates a story line that sets out the realities of the situation, what it will take to change, and how the organization will look like when it is all over. They create an image that sticks showing what success will look like. They inspire and make people believe the change is necessary and they will get through it as a team; they help create the small and fast roller coaster ride. Management teams set out as a matter of fact the need for change. They show the facts and people will see the need to change. Management teams explain the process of change in systematic ways so people know what to expect. The management teams roller coasters are higher, longer, and create more fear because the inclusive story is not there. The hero’s story, the saving of a company, or taking it to the next level, for people to cheer and believe in is not present.
During the queue, the better the business case is laid the better chance for acceptance and success. Once the case had been made, and change is about to begin, everyone sits in their seats, buckles up, and gets ready for the ride. Everyone will have some level of trepidation and beginning the journey. The end is at hand and a new beginning is starting. As the train leaves the station, there are fewer and fewer chances to stop. As the train goes higher on the lift, the processes of change begin to pick up. The senior staff has to continue to sell the ideas, reassure the weak hearted, and increase the on-board of employees to the changes occurring around them.
At the top of the lift there is no turning back. This is the part of most danger. How far the train goes down, or if it will come back up, is in direct relation to your thinking out the need for change, the process, and keeping people on-board. While riding down the lift many things will happen. Everyone will feel a high level of emotions. Some will feel terrified and stuck motionless in their seats. Others will feel exhilaration and throw their hands in the air. Others will simply look down and hold on for the ride. Going down, organizational structures are moved around, some may be sold off. People may be transferred, have new bosses, or jobs changed in mid stream. As things continue to change, people will wonder if things will ever get better; when will it start going back up? Your preparation was the key for people to see when they reach the bottom of the hill. Once at the bottom of the hill, no roller coaster immediately goes back up. It will stay there short period burning off kinetic energy. This burning of energy slowly allows the organization to finish putting everything back into place. Emotional states of employees begin to subside. New business units begin to solidify. How long you spend at this level is also in direct correlation to your business change preparation before entering the queue.
As solidification occurs in subset business units, the upward pull of potential energy starts to kick in. Even though the overall speeds are slowing, as must happen through the laws of physics, the change of potential energy back to change energy (kinetic) throws everyone back into their seats. The business is taking back off and headed skyward. As more systems start to work the higher the organization will go; however, it will never go as high as the initial power of ending the previous systems and preparing for change needed to impact the organization. As everything begins to fully function it will slowly even out and people will become accustomed to the new organizational model. Through the changes a new normal base line had been established over the old base line.
Changing an organization is like riding a roller coaster. The more compelling the need for change, preparation for change, and knowing what the end results will look like. Go a long way to making the roller coaster ride short and enjoyable rather than long and terrifying.