“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” With this famous quote, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus means to say that nothing is permanent, except change. Change is inevitable and happens constantly both in social as in organisational life. In the past couple of years, probably nobody needs convincing of this, we are living in a world on the move, where you never know what is around the corner, where it is key to able to flip the challenges of change into opportunities.
To deal with change in an organisation, different batteries need to be charged. From Strategy to Implementation, from Top Team to Employees. If managed effectively, change can bring creativity and development for organisations. If approached well, resistance to change can be turned around into commitment to change.
Although there can be enthusiasm, many employees will resist change because of a feeling of uncertainty. Being drawn out of your comfort zone, having to change certain routines, … can be quite stressful. Emotional reactions are inevitable. That’s why it is important to manage individual change in the right way. When looking towards connection with your employees it is essential to invest your time and energy to change the way of thinking and the behaviour of every person in your organisation. That way, you tackle resistance and build commitment!
As already mentioned, successful change depends on the commitment of your key employees. Often we think to achieve this, it is enough to explain a new approach, a new way of working… But is it really? We do not want people to just accept change, we want them to believe in it. We want every individual to be convinced that a change is necessary and positive. We even want them to be prepared to share this belief with their colleagues.
A visual representation of this is the commitment ladder. It includes four stages that a person goes through during a complete change process. Each stage requires specific actions.
If you want to change something within your organisation, start by asking yourself some key questions:
We want people to move up on the commitment ladder, from knowing to feeling, from doing to promoting. The final stage (Promoting) is only possible after the first three stages are ensured. Only then people can become true ambassadors, actively encouraging others to apply the changes in their daily lives.
Everyone deals with change in their own way and at their own pace. Where one person will be enthusiastic about the new system because they gain more autonomy to work independently, someone else will regret the reduction in direct collaboration with colleagues. Some people will already be ambassadors, while others still do not feel the real impact of the change and display resistance as a result.
The nature of resistance, the reactions people give, can depend on the timing of a certain change. In the beginning, when people do not fully understand what or why something needs to change, they have the tendency to react and show resistance that is initiated from a cognitive standpoint, from ratio. However, as time progresses it is possible that emotions take over. People can become quiet, start to shout, or even shed a tear. The commitment ladder can help to understand the nature of the resistance behind change. This gives you a solid basis for using the right tools and conversations to turn this resistance around. If you successfully coach your staff in the different steps of the ladder, your organisation will be able to deal with any change in a constructive and engaged manner.
Of course, it is not a matter of theory but about applying the commitment ladder to actual cases. That is what Yuki, an organisation that offers digital accountancy software, did. For many accountancy firms, possible clients are hesitant about abandoning their traditional habits. Implementing a new software or managing a new system is challenging. That is why Yuki wanted to support its clients in their change processes and developed a manual, explaining the steps their organisation can take to bring their company and their employees into a change process.
“LQ is the confidant of business leaders in the realisation of transformations with a sustainable impact.”
For change to happen, it is essential to energise the connection with your employees and to make sure you move from resistance to commitment to change. When people become fully committed, they don’t just accept the change, but they become true ambassadors of the change, ready to promote the change to others, through knowledge and understanding, but above through leading by example.
Given this, it’s obvious why commitment is so important to the success of organisational change. The commitment ladder provides a model of how commitment can be built and sustained.
LQ applies the commitment ladder when energising organisations for change. We look in depth at each aspect of the commitment ladder in line with the four stages of knowing, feeling, doing, and promoting. We give support every step of the way.