Every era needs to adopt the most suitable approach to change that caters for its needs. In 1995, for example, John Kotter published the 8-step change model . At this time, organisations typically adopted a top-down structural approach, which aligned well with Kotter’s change model as this model ensured that leadership had a well-established approach to change that then cascaded down the organisational structure.
As time went on, organisations started to realise that it is in fact employees who are the key component to initiating creative ideas and making them happen, therefore, many organisations started adopting a bottom-up approach. In 2006, Jeff Hiatt published Prosci’s ADKAR model , this aligned well with this new approach as it too was a bottom-up approach to change.
So which change model works best in 2019?
During my 3 years of research in change facilitation, after interviewing leaders on how they have made their changes stick and while working on multiple change projects, it is clear that one approach cannot work without the other.
When we focus all our time and attention on leadership, we lose sight of those actually implementing the change. Resistance from one crucial team member or department can stop even the most well-researched and well-funded change initiative. I have personally seen this. When team members’ concerns are not adequately addressed, it gives rise to anger, resistance and disengagement that can and has brought down all of leadership’s efforts.
On the other hand, when we focus all our attention on those implementing the change without gaining leadership support, direction, and aligning the change to the overall organisational strategy, then everything we have worked for with teams can come undone with one word or pulling of the change initiative’s funding.
A facilitated ‘All-in’ approach to change
Having a ‘change facilitation’ approach, that connects both leadership and teams is proven to be very effective .
Qualities of the ideal change facilitator
- Objective- They can be internal or external to the organisation, but must be objective, meaning they cannot be directly involved in the change project.
- Facilitator not doer- They would facilitate the change process but not actively take part of it. The reason for this is that change capabilities are often underdeveloped because change projects are often completely outsourced. This approach ensures that teams have external support and facilitated direction, but are equipping themselves with the ability to make change happen and not rely on someone to do the change for them.
- Descriptive not Prescriptive- They would transfer general knowledge and evidence behind change, however when it comes to how to make the change happen within the organisation, they would simply facilitate discussions among teams, who would come up with how they will make the change happen. When teams come up with the ideas and the processes, they are more likely to take ownership and make these changes happen.
- Connector- They would facilitate discussions among leadership to align the change vision to the overall strategic vision as well as ensuring key stakeholder buy. They would also work with middle management to ensure they are empowered to take their teams effectively through the change process and they would work with teams to identify and overcome their concerns as well as embed the change within their processes and systems.
The best way to measure if a change facilitator has done a great job, is that after they are gone, all team members are confident that they can make their changes stick.
Facilitation is the art of stimulating deeper understanding, fresh thinking and behavioural transformation.
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- Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail.
- Hiatt, J. (2006). ADKAR: a model for change in business, government, and our community. Prosci.
- Harvey, G., Loftus-Hills, A., Rycroft-Malone, J., Titchen, A., Kitson, A., McCormack, B., & Seers, K. (2002). Getting evidence into practice: The role and function of facilitation. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 37(6), 577-588. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2002.02126.x