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If You Want to Accelerate Change, Make Sure It’s Led by Employees

May 30, 2018

Accelerate change

Your company needs to accelerate change, but it’s repelling it instead. How can an organization close the gap between all the talk about change and the ability to carry it out? One place to start is by understanding that change must be driven by employees, says Lior Arussy, CEO and president of Strativity, a global experience design and transformation firm, and the author of Next Is Now: 5 Steps for Embracing Change—Building a Business That Thrives into the Future (Simon & Schuster, 2018).

As Arussy explains on an AMA Edgewise podcast, one study found that only 9% of companies had succeeded with top-down change programs. An organization is not the sum total of the CEO’s decisions, after all, but rather the decisions of every employee. “You’ve got to activate them. This is about employee-led change and transformation,” Arussy said.

He points out that most organizations crave consistency and predictability. As a result, they follow best practices, which by definition focuses them on what was done in the past. So even as they talk about change, organizations and individuals resist the process. “They’re sacrificing their future,” Arussy said. “They’re sacrificing their ability to adapt and stay relevant in the marketplace.”

Accelerating change

Arussy provides some tips in the AMA podcast on activating change:

Understand what employees really fear. In the change management process, people may assume that the future is the problem—such as the need to understand what’s coming and develop new skill sets. But Arussy’s firm has found that employees’ main fear actually concerns the past: The need for change may suggest that what they’ve been doing all along was wrong, resulting in an identity crisis for employees.

“Fear No. 1 was, where am I filing the last 20 years of my life?” Arussy explained.

Build a bridge from the past to the future. Employees must understand that change is about evolution, not about replacing something “bad” with a better way. To facilitate this understanding, organizations need to help employees recognize where the past belongs and how they can evolve from it.

“Before you can create hope for the future, you’ve got to create the bridge between the past and the future so they will not feel a crisis or breakage when it comes to change,” advised Arussy.

Put the focus on employees’ core cause. Employees need to separate the tools and processes associated with their work from their core cause or purpose, Arussy said. The core cause is what serves as a bridge to the future. For example, if an employee’s core cause is to create an impact for customers, then he is not dependent on any particular tool or process to do so. Once the employee understands this concept, he can explore new ways to create impact.

“There is a huge ‘aha’ moment for people and they say, ‘You know what? I am not the tool. I’m not the wrench. I’m not the hammer. I’m not the software. I’m not the process. I’m the impact that I’m creating for people, and I’m going to go and find the best tool to get there,’” Arussy said.

Listen to the AMA podcast with Lior Arussy.

Visit the Edgewise library for more podcasts.

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American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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