Change Fatigue at the Organizational Level

Change is a constant now: new initiatives come, old ones go, processes are tweaked and the tools get updated.  Isabelle Suares has a very interesting challenge at Cisco.  Her role is to help Cisco Support manage the many change initiatives underway simultaneously.  Her experiences coordinating over 40 change initiatives and a 30-day Agile tool development cycle gives her a unique perspective on how people within organizations adapt to change.

It was a great privilege to have her share her thoughts on change fatigue during a recent Program Team Meeting.  She shared some symptoms that can help you identify if your organization is experiencing change fatigue.

  • Are your communications not being read?
  • Are your trainings not being attended?
  • Are your informational forums not being attended?
  • Are people in the organization asking the same questions again and again?
  • Is there a sense of pushback or resistance?
  • Are the new behaviors not being adopted?

If you answered “Yes” to most or all of these questions, then it is likely your organization has reached change saturation.  According to Isabelle, there are many causes.  I’ve captured a few here for you, however, there are likely others.

  • No sense of ownership or participation in the new initiative
  • Too many initiatives happening at the same time
  • Conflicting initiatives that require participation from the same resources
  • Adoption challenges aren’t acknowledged and addressed
  • Vision not understood by the organization
  • Moving too quickly to the next initiative without celebrating the successes

It is relatively easy to identify an organization suffering from change fatigue.  The question really is, “What do we do about it?”  Here are some key actions to take to create a more change-friendly environment:

  1. Believe!!  Initiative leaders have to truly believe in the transformation they are proposing and then help everyone visualize what it looks like and why it is the right thing to do.  If an initiative is struggling, leaders have to do a gut check.  Do you really believe that the change will work?  Do you really believe that the change will have the impact you say it will?  If you don’t REALLY believe, then you are setting that particular change initiative up to fail.  People within the organization can sense that doubt and are less likely to really adapt.
  2. Celebrate!!  Success breeds success so establish achievable goals for the organization and then celebrate when you get there.  If you have been using stretch goals to motivate the organization, then you should consider experimenting with setting a series of small goals with corresponding celebrations.  Stretch goals only result in a disenfranchised organization exhausted by battling to achieve an impossible goal.
  3. Engage stakeholders!! Isabelle believes strongly in using stakeholder engagement workshops that facilitate greater understanding about vision and adoption challenges  It also offers the advantage of giving stakeholders a sense of ownership in the process.  Be prepared to listen and adapt based on the input you receive.  These engagement workshops are useful early in the change process, but also after launch when you need to keep the energy level high.

I must give a very special note of appreciation to Isabelle Suares for sharing her valuable insights on this topic that impacts many of us.  I found her information to be very helpful and wanted to make sure it was widely shared.

For more information on this discussion, visit the “Energizing Your KCS Implementation” wiki page where notes and presentations are captured.  Members can email Kelly Murray for access to the wiki.

If these types of discussions interest you, come to an upcoming Program Team Meeting.  They offer opportunities to network, see how others are tackling common challenges, and be a part of the Consortium innovation process.

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