Success mechanisms of change processes

Focusing on change management doesn’t limit problem space but sets up a context highlighting the question “what context factors make a change process successful”. More specifically, what cultural aspects are key factors to success.

These cultural aspects are best described as structural functioning, meaning that people react to situations in a certain way and these reactions are organized into a structure that supports the change process. I.e. we don’t talk about ‘soft things’, but socially distributed behavioral structures.

The psychology behind is that people like personal development but dislike change. As the organization is moving towards its goals (transformative change) or simply adapts to its environment (adaptive change), people move with it. Part of these moves direct to their personal goals and support their personal development and the other parts are just change. The relation of the organizational and personal development vectors will decide whether the person will support or resist an organizational change process.

Organizational and personal development vectors.

During the change process individual efforts are made to move towards the desired state at the behavioral level. This requires mental effort and naturally entails mistakes. Many behavioral patterns arise and individuals may be uncertain whether they are doing the right thing. It is essential to select the behaviors and behavioral aspects that best promote and support the change process.

Behavioral vectors align with the change process.

In this process obstacles arise and setbacks are frequent. To cope with them one needs to reinforce solution orientation and learning. This again requires mental effort sometimes beyond capacity. If capacity is reached, people fall into resistance as coping mechanisms collapse. The environment may offer help to move from problem frame to solution frame and from setback frame to learning frame. These problems are not present at the beginning but peek on the middle of the change process as a collateral to structural changes. This effect is called the Valley of Death.

These three individual aspects of organizational change need a systemic management approach. Three systems need to be implemented, an individual-organizational fit system (closing individual and organizational goal vectors as much as possible), a feedback system (reinforcing behaviors pointing to the right direction) and a rescue system (ensuring people don’t stuck into resistance because of collapsed coping strategies).

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