Our main assumption is that change management failure is due to the resistance of employees. What if we were wrong about that? Maybe, resistance to change does not exist. This may seem to be a strong statement for you, leaders, managers or OD specialists. We know that the essence of change is the transition from a known state to an unknown state. Then why employees are not buying into the change even if they understand its necessity. What is missing in our understanding of change dynamic? Many OD specialists created models and theories to explain and improve change management but still there is a 70% of failure. What if we missed the most important part of change, human reactions?

After their research Victoria M. and James D. Grady have shown that we are not resistant to change, we are just attached to the current state we live in. We feel secure when we know our environment, coworkers, pay system, and so on. All living being are attached to their current state, this is natural. When they are young animals lean on or are attached to their parents because they feed and protect them. This attachment is indispensable for survival. Human beings are not exception to this natural law. The roots of our attachment come from our childhood. As infants we made one with our mother until we realized that in fact we were two different people. We went through our first change, our first loss. In order to handle the situation, we found a transitional object on which we leaned on while we accommodated ourselves to this new reality.

Once adult, this process of attachment and loss is still active. When a change comes we need to find a transitional object to adapt to the new environment. We need a kind of crutch to carry on walking. The first time Children go to school they lean on an transitional object such as a teddy bear to adapt to this first real separation from their family. When we grow up we use different tactics to handle change and do not need a "real object" all the time. The transitional object can be a idea, a routine, a ceremony, a ritual…

The issue in organizational change is that we take away an object, a person, an idea without giving the support genuinely needed by employees to go through the transition. The loss of the current state, object or idea generates different symptoms with various intensities across people. In their book, The Pivot point, Victoria M. and James D. Grady, list 6 symptoms that we can identify in individuals when a change is coming up and an attachment object, person, idea is lost. The individual reactions to change lead to collective (organizations) reactions.

Reaction to change or to the loss of our attachment object result in:

It seems then important to find a way to support employees during change by providing them adapted transitional object. The identification of symptoms allows a consultant to suggest support strategies before, during and after the change. Those strategies determine the type of transitional object (crutch) that people need. It is important to note that the transitional object changes from individual to individual, from situation to situation, and from organization to organization. Those symptoms can be evaluated thanks to the Change Diagnostic Index© developed by Victoria M. and James D. Grady and for which I am certified.

In spite of accusing employees of being resistant to change we need to accompany them in the change by acknowledging the existence of their reaction and assist them in this difficult time. We cannot erase the emotional reaction to change but we can lessen them by finding a transitional object that our employee need.
I invite you to check my post on the Change Diagnostic Index© in the The Organizational Management Toolbox - OMT.

Victoria M. Grady and James D. Grady (2013) The pivot point: Success in Organizational Change, Morgan James, http://pivotpnt.com/ 
Thechangeprocess1 title=
The importance of change management has not been stressed enough. Over 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their intended goals. Theories have been developed to explain, understand, and break down the "perfect" change process. In my opinion, one theory or model will not answer all change management questions. It is important to understand the uniqueness of an organization situation, needs, desire […] to create a personalized change model.  The info graphic above illustrates the main phases that can be followed to implement a change.
The first important step is to determine the organization current situation. Organizations can face different issues such as market share lose, employee disengagement, sinister and other impedes. The tools used to analyze situations depend on the issue the organization is facing. [SWOT & PESTEL, Rich Pictures…] For example, an organization is losing market share but cannot determine the reasons of this lose at first sight. The organization leader will probably use financial and accounting analyses tools to find the origin of this loss. Is this lose caused by a diminution of customers or the apparition of a new product or both?
The next step is to define the organization goals or dreamed situation. Goals and dreamed situations have to be determined before any action is taken. People in organizations have a tendency to rush into action without taking the time to clarify their goals. The failure is then almost unavoidable. The definition of a mission and a vision should be done as early as possible in the organization life. Other decisions on the short/long term will be based on those fundamental decisions. It is then possible to take consistent decisions across the organization and in time.

The third step is to determine the actions to take to achieve the goal determined previously. Leaders should compare the current state of the organization with its desired state. The gaps identified give an indication of the type of actions that needs to be taken. Organizations have to evaluate their resources (employees, financial state, localization…) in order to determine their capabilities. By doing so, organizations are able to list possible and desirable actions to achieve their goal.  This “action plan” will determine the allocation of resources: the people to involve, the time frame, and the criteria that will allow the success' evaluation afterward. Several processes can be used to guide the change. Some of them are Soft System Methodology (Checkland) and Strategic Planning. I will present some processes in the OrganizationalManagement Toolbox
Creating scenarios can help anticipate possible issues to come. This will allow to create contingency plans because it is always better to prepare for the worse to get the best result possible.

Change management is a complex task as it involves dealing with employees responses. Desired or unexpected change bring discomfort in organization which can lead to unsuccessful adaptation. The reaction of employees facing change will be the subject of my next post.
See you in a week! 

A rich picture illustrates a complex situation thanks to drawings that will evoke immediate ideas. The use of images, punctuation, and color code will help visualize and understand a process, feelings, an issue, and so one in an organization or even a smaller part of it. The rich picture should be drawn by the people involved in the issue you are looking at. You can use the rich picture exercise to understand issues at different level of the organization from the team, to the departments and finally the whole organization. You will then aggregate the rich pictures together to obtain a global understanding of the issue.

This exercise is limited in number of participants, simply because you cannot have 200 people drawing on a blackboard. As a manager you will have to select the people involved in the rich picture exercise. I invite you to test this method with a small group before implementing it at a larger scale.

The final rich picture will help to you see where the issues are. It will allow you to generate strategies to improve the situation or at least to clarify the issue and give you a direction to follow.

Material needed:

  • Blackboard or pieces of paper with stickers
  • Colored pen


  1. Determine the issue you want to look at (e.g. French fries are always cold when they arrive on clients’ table)
  2. Define a starting point in your process (e.g. receiving an order of French Fries) 
  3. Draw the first action (e.g. receiving the order of French fries) 
  4. Determine the process you follow when you receive the order 
  5. Draw the process (leave enough space to add additional visual information) 
  6. Ideas may come to your mind as you draw. Add them. You can use:
a. Smileys to express feelings
b. $ sign to express expenses
c. Color codes to express urgency level, department responsibilities…
d. Create your own codes

      7. Be as detailed as possible. It will help you see the big picture of the situation
      8. Look at your drawing and see if you are not missing anything

Usually people are reticent at the beginning of the exercise because they may think that drawing is for children. Once people understand the power of drawing they will ask to start over because now they are familiar with the tool and want to really express their ideas. 

The final rich picture will help you see where the issues are. It will allow you to generate strategies to improve the situation or at least it will clarify the issue.

Useful links: from Learn with The Open University
Those 8 videos are very good at explaining what rich picture is and how you can use it. I recommend you to watch the video Work - The Art of Rich Pictures (7/8) if you want to go to the point. Otherwise, enjoy!

  1. Communicative Art - The Art of Rich Pictures (1/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZH-NKqKF9A
  2. Icons & Signs - The Art of Rich Pictures (2/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xjqPmvDHcY
  3. Rich Pictures - The Art of Rich Pictures (3/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiCL29e_szA
  4. Using Rich Pictures - The Art of Rich Pictures (4/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KdYE_HYNyQ
  5. Storytelling - The Art of Rich Pictures (5/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGPVYQfdLIo
  6. Health - The Art of Rich Pictures (6/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_s8IiwC2nw
  7.  Work - The Art of Rich Pictures (7/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzzauPb2O34
  8. Big Picture Thinking - The Art of Rich Pictures (8/8) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J030bU51ZEM
I read a fascinating article from the Harvard Business Review written by Diane L. Coutu “How resilience works”.  I am very curious to understand its mechanisms as well as its possible replication.

Resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”(Oxford, 2014). A person or an organization can be resilient. Any person or organization desires to be resilient and to recover quickly from difficult times. Unfortunately, we are not equally equipped with it. Some theories imply that genetics is the base of resilience but empiric studies showed that resilience can be learned.
In her article Diane L. Coutu highlighted three characteristics of resilience.
  1. Facing Down Reality:  A resilient person realizes the situation he is in and accept some hard facts. 
  2. Search for Meaning: Resilient people have a belief that life is meaningful and they will look for meaningfulness in the hardship.
  3. Ritualized Ingenuity: A resilient person is like Mac Giver and finds innovative ways to face new issues while having rituals on which he can lean on when an unexpected event occurs.

In my opinion resilience is a fundamental basis for organizations growth, and sometimes survival. If we look at those three characteristics we can implements strategies inside an organization to make it more resilient and able to face difficult times.
  • Get accurate information on your organization state.

The organization needs to have a clear view of its situation. Using a SWOT & PESTEL approach is one way to have a generic idea of your current situation. In a perfect world, this analysis will take place as often as possible. The most important is to determine alerts or red lights that should catch your attention and tell you to look closer at your situation. An example of red light can be the evolution of the sales of your shops. The CEO and managers of an organization have most of the time a lists of red lights to determine their position.
  • Develop a vision or an ideal state

The existence of a vision is a key for a resilient organization. The creation of a vision is very important and can be difficult. The vision of an organization is what we could define as an ideal that an organization wants to achieve. For example, Deloitte vision is to be the standard of excellence. Their vision is to become the standard in consulting by excellence. What is your organization vision? What is the meaning of your organization? The question of organizational vision is not only discussed in the theory of resilience, which highlights its importance.
  • Create rituals (programs, procedures…) to support your employees and anticipate possible issues

In order to function correctly in bad times an organization should have rituals. The rituals can be a procedure that employees follow to do their job, a monthly email to celebrate accomplishment, an event that allows people to reconnect with the vision of the organization. Those rituals allow employees to have a common base and to find ways to reach the vision. Being innovative to achieve organizational vision should be encouraged as they will allow the organization to react when the situation is not favorable.

To conclude, in difficult time humans and organizations needs to make sure they know where they are (realistic), where they want to be (vision) and what actions they can take (rituals and creativity). I find interesting that many theories about organizations management comprehend at least one of this question or theme. The wording may be different but the ground idea is the same. There must be some fundamental knowledge to extract from those theories.