Change breakthrough analysis
Growth means change. By its very nature, organizational change is an emotional endeavor. When we institute change, we have an effect on individuals. Because of this we have an obligation as change leaders to provide tools to help employees thrive in the changing environment.
The challenge is that when people are upset, their perceptions are skewed toward the negative and when they are elated, their perceptions slant toward the positive. Either way, they are in an emotional state that is not centered, and therefore it is difficult for them, if not impossible, to open their minds wide enough to hear, let alone embrace, the true potential and effects of your change project. What's a change leader to do?
Recently one of my clients, who is a senior executive in his corporation, told me that he wanted to do more for his employees than help them make a smooth transition to the planned changes. “Is there any way,” he asked, “to give the employees a tool that will support the change project, and also enhance the quality of their lives outside of work?”
I could tell by the way he asked the question that he expected me to say “no.” Instead, I was able to offer him and his staff the Change Breakthrough Analysis tool I devised nearly a decade ago and have been using successfully ever since. Often employees think of top management as uncaring and bottom-line oriented, but the reality is that many leaders are concerned about the well being of their employees and are looking for ways to help them improve the quality of their work, as well as the quality of their lives.
Moving People from Their Hearts to Their Heads
I recommend guiding your executives, stakeholders, change management team, supervisors, and front-line employees (in that order) through the process of “Change Breakthrough Analysis.” This technique is very powerful in helping people to begin being productive relative to your change initiative. It is one of the fastest most effective ways to move people from their hearts to their heads—from emotional chaos to clear thinking (Exhibit 1).
Change Breakthrough Analysis, as with many change-related tools, has broader application in the personal and professional lives of people. Once you share this method with your employees they will have an effective tool that they can use to overcome barriers, transcend fears, balance their emotions, and consequently expand their minds to greater possibilities. Imagine the ongoing impact a tool like this will have on the success and productivity of your company as well as on the personal lives of your employees.
Many people emotionally balk at the prospect of change even if they logically know that the changes will provide personal or organizational improvements. Others get infatuated or elated about the possibility of “something better,” and are then disappointed or dismayed when they realize there are also drawbacks or inconveniences that are inherent to the process of change as well as the change itself.
For those who haven't looked at both the potential positive impacts, and the potential negative impacts of the change, making the transition is often a rocky road. These people are either entrenched in wanting things to stay the same, or are enthralled by the prospect of things becoming better. Either way, they are generally holding some (or many) misconceptions.
Through the Change Breakthrough Analysis, employees are not only balancing their emotional responses, they are also revealing their myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings concerning the change (Exhibit 2). This information is extremely important to the change leader because it lets you know what you need to cover in your change communications, and what points you need to stress, downplay, and explain more thoroughly.
How Change Breakthrough Analysis Works
The basis for Change Breakthrough Analysis is rooted in the principles of quantum physics, but you don't need a scientifically oriented mind in order to understand how the process works or to be able to use it well. What's important is to be able to see the parallels between the principles of energy and matter and the human dynamics of organizational change.
For example, everything in physical existence is made up of matter, whether it is a desk, chair, tree, or human being. All matter is made up of light particles that have varying levels of positive and negative charges. We might say that the response of someone who is very agitated is “negatively charged,” whereas the response of someone who is excited is “positively charged.”
Since organizational change is an emotional undertaking, it's never a good idea to ignore, deny, or attempt to sweep people's emotional reactions and responses under the corporate rug.
Because emotions are based on perceptions, and perceptions are nearly always somewhat lopsided. If you think something is more good than bad, your emotional response is positive. If you think something is more bad than good, your emotional response is negative. When you clearly look at both sides of a situation, you discover that the good and the bad often equal out. The key is to realize that emotions can disorder our thoughts.
Have you noticed that some of the more negative reactions to change aren't very logical? Look closer and you'll see that some of the more positive reactions to change aren't based in logic either.
We find that many times change leaders focus on convincing people of the benefits exclusively. We believe in an optimistic attitude, but it is critical to acknowledge the negative perspective…which at certain times may be the prevailing attitude of your constituents.
By guiding people through the Change Breakthrough Analysis, you are, in effect, teaching them how to balance their emotional charges and assisting them in seeing the big picture (Exhibit 3). By doing so, you can create a cohesive force working in the direction of the change.
Picture a pendulum framed in a triangle. The swinging of the pendulum at the bottom of the triangle represents the initial emotional reactions of an employee as they first learn about the change (Exhibit 4). The pendulum swings broadly, caused by the highly charged reaction based upon the employee's perceptions – both positive and negative. The reactions swing wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. At this stage the employee does not recognize the inherent balance of the positive and negative impact of the change. They lack a holistic perspective.
As the employees work through the Change Breakthrough Analysis and they begin to see both sides of the coin, their thoughts begin to order and the number and degree of their emotional charges is reduced. Dissolving the emotional charges and ordering their thoughts moves them closer to the top of the pendulum (Exhibit 5), thereby reducing the width of their emotional swings. The more emotional charges they balance, the greater their ability to view the change and respond to it with a more complete perspective and a higher degree of enlightenment.
Exploring the positive and negative aspects of the change initiative also gives people something productive to do, which shifts their focus away from the solely emotional aspects of change. Through the Change Breakthrough Analysis process, employees move from unstructured thought to structured thought, bringing balance and moving toward greater certainty about their role in the change initiative.
According to quantum physics, when two particles of equal charge come together, they literally collapse and birth light. When human beings completely balance their negative and positive emotional charges concerning a change initiative or any other event, the emotional charges collapse and birth a new level of enlightenment and understanding. This enlightenment corresponds to a movement up the triangle in our example. Notice, as this upward movement occurs, the pendulum is shorter and the corresponding emotional swings are less dramatic.
While this may sound extremely complex (and its origin is) following the process is actually quite simple. Change Breakthrough Analysis is a structured exercise to facilitate the achievement of balanced perceptions and gather valuable information concerning employees’ positive and negative feelings about the change, as well as their misperceptions about what the change is and how it will affect them.
By beginning with the executives and change stakeholders, you can accentuate the benefits for supporting the change and the drawbacks for not supporting the change in all communications and coalition building activities.
The Change Breakthrough Analysis can provide a true breakthrough as employees begin to recognize change as an opportunity. Once your employees have been guided through this process they will know – from experience – that balancing their emotions and increasing the order in their thoughts is a very wise and helpful practice. Encourage them to continue using this tool for other issues and circumstances that they confront both at work and in their personal lives.
Those who make this tool a part of their life will soon find that even without sitting down with pen and paper, their minds will become trained to immediately look at both sides of situations. Consequently, they will experience smaller emotional swings and develop a greater capacity for problem solving (Exhibit 6). They are also likely to experience an increase in their energy, vitality, and productivity because all of the energy invested in emotional turmoil can be freed up for more important and inspiring goals and objectives.
Although complex in its origin, Change Breakthrough Analysis is a simple process to conduct. Change Breakthrough Analysis is part of the communication campaign for the change initiative and should be performed in conjunction with sessions that provide information to the constituents regarding the change. Participants in small groups are asked to discuss and document the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed or scheduled change from three perspectives: the client, the organization, and the employee. Additionally a private exercise analyzes the participants’ willingness to support rather than fighting the change effort. Upon completion of the Change Breakthrough Analysis session the change leader can use the information obtained from the process in future communication activities throughout the life-cycle of the change initiative (Canterucci, 2002).
Canterucci, J. (2002) Change Project Management – The Next Step, The System for Change Leaders. Columbus, OH: Transition Management Advisors.
Proceedings of PMI® Global Congress 2003 – North America
Baltimore, Maryland, USA ● 20-23 September 2003