Change Management- How to Break Through Group Inertia
Inertia is the tendency of an object to resist change and stay in its current state of motion. There are formulary solutions that mathematically calculate the amount of force needed for an object to break away from its current trajectory. You don’t have to be a physics scientist, calculating this formula to understand the challenges of change management leaders encounter daily when trying to roll out organizational initiatives or coach employees in behavioral improvements.
As leaders, we all struggle with this scientific law, consciously or unconsciously. We often see how hard it is for companies and employees that have a certain momentum to make changes, even if on the surface the change is a welcomed one. We know the saying: “Old habits die hard!”
Here are 3 principles that help leaders overcome the inherent challenges of group change management to achieve their desired outcome.
1) Employees have to know the WHY. Most people are not motivated to change unless the vision of what the change will bring (positive reward) is stronger and more powerful than the comfortability of staying in the current state. Even if the current state is not ideal, the fear of the unknown will keep people and organizations stuck. The first principle of change management is a leader’s need to paint a vision of what the change will bring. Leaders can do this on the individual level by having an employee imagine what will be different in the desired state. They can also use this on a company level by explaining the systemic improvements that will be experienced if a change happens. Either way, people have to understand why they are doing it and emotionally buy into the positive rewards they will experience.
Understanding an employee’s behavior profile can be a first step in breaking individual and group inertia. DISC is a powerful behavior profile tool that allows you to improve communication and your effectiveness in managing resistance to change.
2) Stay the course. Leaders can expect a company or individuals to naturally want to gravitate toward old norms. Anticipate this and implement strategies to combat this natural reaction. Ideas include making change into a game, a friendly competition, a daily conversation, a celebration of the small milestones towards the goal, etc. Keep the change visible, talk about it frequently, and make it as engaging as possible. Even if staff complain and grumble, steady the course and plod on. Usually, momentum will kick in, and change will become easier the further down the path you are towards the goal.
3) It takes a month. New habits and new behaviors take about a month to become habitual, so give it time. Expect a few set-backs. Keep practicing the new behavior. Reward and reinforce the new behaviors that are emerging. Bring conscious awareness to the progress made. Eventually the new becomes the new norm.
If leaders expect setbacks, plan accordingly, and keep themselves focused on the WHY and the goal, they can be the torque needed to push against group inertia and set the example for change management and help support an organization or employee in moving towards a new goal.