The Negotiation of Change

The AlchemistBusiness Process Review, Change Management, Project Management

shutterstock_98442119I was talking to a Business Manager recently about the change aspects of his IT project. We discussed the issues he might have around translation of existing business processes into the new IT system, as well as the cultural impact those changes might bring. I gave him some suggestions regarding methods of managing the change in the business and he said: “That’s not a problem. I’ll just tell my staff this is what they have to do and they’ll do what I tell them.”

If only it were that easy…

Statistically, change is always more successful when it is embraced and incorporated than when it is forced. Every act of change is a negotiation, within ourselves, or between ourselves and others. Watch a child agree to do something they don’t want to do but insist upon a reward and you’ll see change negotiation in its purest form. Change Management is Negotiation In Action.

Realistically, when you ask your staff to do something differently, their first response is going to be “what’s in it for me?” As in, “is this change going to make my working day harder”? Or “will this change save me time?” Or even “are you asking me to do more work without paying me more?” If you’re managing your change, you’ll know that you need to answer these questions by giving staff a vision of the future state, post change. But even then, you’re not always going to get everyone easily on board.

We negotiate in our lives daily, to varying degrees and levels. When we do, one of the first things we consider is “do I need this to be a win/win scenario?” A “win/win scenario” is when we want an outcome that pleases both parties, resulting in goodwill and potential future engagement from both sides. If you are going to have to have a positive, ongoing relationship with the other party, i.e. you have to continue to work productively with them, then this is the outcome you want to achieve.

But what does win-win mean for your scenario? Your side might be simple – you want successful project delivery and completion. So what about the other side? What does a win mean to them?

It may sound obvious, but the simplest way to understand the motivation of the other party is to ask them. Have a quick meeting with key staff and find out what this change means to them. It doesn’t have to be a big talk-fest but it should give people a chance to talk through their needs. Make it clear that the aim is not to please everyone – that will never be possible. However, the fact that you’ve taken the time to involve staff and consider their opinions already builds towards your win-win scenario. You also now understand how your staff perceive this change and what it will take for them to embrace it.

When people talk about change, it often hits them deeply on a personal level. Discussions can be quite animated and sometimes even aggressive. It can help to remember that most of these issues will stem from one of our basic human needs (Abraham Maslow did a lot of work documenting these in the 1940’s). If you have an understanding of these groupings, it can help you to understand someone’s concern or perspective and then work out what their “win” might be. In brief, these are the needs that push our buttons:

1)  Survival Needs – The most basic human needs, covering our requirements for life such as food, water, air and warmth. Translated into a work environment this can be quite literally, “Will I survive this change? Will I still have a job and be able to eat/pay my mortgage?”

2)  Safety/ Security Needs – Our need to be safe from danger and to have security and harmony. In a work environment this could translate into, “is my job going to get harder? Am I going to have to do things I don’t want to do or work with people I don’t want to work with? If my job changes, will I still enjoy it or will I still be needed?”

3)  Social/ Group Needs – This covers acceptance, friendship and belonging. This will be particularly important if your change is going to impact the company culture, or the current working environment. Will teams be broken up and rearranged?

4)  Esteem Needs – Our need for recognition, for social approval, for success and our reputation or the way we think we are perceived. Are you making a change that will result in demotion or promotion? Is this a chance for someone to shine? Do you have staff who want to contribute more?

5)  Self-Fulfilment – Self-fulfilment covers our need for self-development and striving to reach our full potential. If you have a highly motivated group of staff, this will most likely be their primary driver. They will want to ensure that the change assists them to work to the best of their capabilities. It’s easy to ignore this need and see this as irrelevant, but for the staff who are the “glue” in the business this will be very important.

Successful change in an organisation cannot occur where it is forced on people. Our basic human needs rear up and anything we feel is blocking us from achieving them is automatically shut down. Organisations who manage change effectively see it as an ongoing negotiation process where they aim for a win-win scenario. The needs of staff are respected as well as the needs of the organisation. While we cannot always fully satisfy both sides, the fact that they are discussed and incorporated into the process will facilitate a successful outcome.

Do you need  help implementing business change?  Contact Business System Alchemy for more information by clicking here.

MP900321217The Alchemist comes to your courtesy of Ruxana D’Vine and Michael Meryment, specialists in matching business needs back to technology.