As change becomes a the new normal we need to learn how to effectively manage change fatigue!
Most organisations are simply not prepared for continuous change. Many approach each change as a crisis by bombarding their teams with one critical change after another. This “always on” approach leads to the increasingly costly problem of change fatigue. Change fatigue is linked to increased stress, burnout and disengagement. This constant pressure eventually leads to a general sense of apathy toward change.
With change fatigue even though your employees come to work, their commitment and value contribution doesn’t.
The 3 primary factors that produce change fatigue:
1. The change is less than effective. When the change doesn’t produce the required results, teams become frustrated with the increased work and disruption for no tangible results. This ineffectiveness is often a result of poor change design, ineffective communication or poor alignment with behavioural drivers.
2. Projects always require more initial effort than advertised. Until the new ways of doing the task are learned more work and time is required to accomplish tasks.
3. The change becomes never-ending. There is always another economic, environmental or customer focussed change on the horizon. Without time to pause, assess progress and celebrate success (with tangible recognition and rewards) it is easy to burn out.
Managing change fatigue requires more than just reducing the number of changes, it requires a shift in thinking about what to change, when to change, and how change is implemented.
7 Strategies to manage Change Fatigue:
1. Become a learning organisation.
Realising that we are not going to “win” the battle of change is the first step in dealing with change fatigue. To remain relevant and successful we need to set goals for what we’re going to learn and what we will do differently based on what we learn. To be innovative and change fit we have to become willing to own our failures and share the lessons. Additionally, we need to know the leadership and management activities that strengthen our ability to handle change, and those that don’t.
2. Honour your past.
Visibly demonstrate your appreciation of all past efforts, before forging ahead into the future. Our people can become defensive and disengaged when they feel previous work is being criticised. Acknowledge what they have achieved, and then challenge them to build on it. Involve them in discussions about what a new vision with even better results could look like.
3. Take a big picture view.
Every change (even small ones) can send ripples into other areas of the organisation. When we recognise and plan for the ripples we can reduce occurrences of change fatigue. Changes in one department impact how they interact with other areas of the organisation. When implementing multiple changes across the organisation we need to know how they all fit together, what is the current status, and how our people are responding. Buy-in, required contribution and what it will mean for the organisation is an essential part of selling the big picture.
4. Create opportunities for feedback.
Customer and employee feedback can help address some of the root causes of resistance to change as well as identify other underlying issues. Most us just want to be heard. Giving people a voice and acting on their feedback can help us to identify what works, what doesn’t and to continuously raise the bar.
5. Focus on Continuous Improvement.
Create a culture that focusses on Continuous Improvement rather than just Change. Great leaders appreciate and acknowledge what is achieved each day, but also look for ways to set the bar higher. Begin with the end in mind – provide meaningful Management Information (MI) and change feedback for your management team by demonstrating how your metrics align with your strategy and values.
6. Remember the personal touch.
Never underestimate the power of the personal touch. Interactive and engaging live communication helps employees understand how it will impact them and why the change matters. Change communication is most effective when it is consistent and frequent. Leadership and management need to be the first source of information, rather than employees finding out about the change from the media or the rumour mill. Many employees remain unaware of specific details and progress of the change as they didn’t read emails or assumed it didn’t apply to them. A roadshow, town-hall meeting or live presentation by leaders (with ample time for questions) can help employees understand the need for change and make the message more memorable.
7. Recognise and Celebrate.
It’s important to celebrate success and to recognise the people (and teams) who have contributed to these achievements. These contributions include elements that worked, as well as team members that tried something new that didn’t work but offered lessons that lead to success. Many innovations and successful changes are only built on what we learned from failure. A culture where our people take pride in innovative failures, as well as innovative successes, helps motivate us to try new things and find the lessons from our failures.
Change fatigue will continue to be a problem until we shift our thinking and approach to organisational change. Paying attention to these seven elements can help reduce and prevent change fatigue in your organisation.
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