Hearts and Minds: Affecting positive change in the workplace

23 Nov

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management at the London Business School, was awarded the prize of twelfth most influential living Global Management figure and the most highly placed UK expert on the subject at the annual Thinkers 50 Award on November 15th.

Hearts and Minds: Affecting positive change in the workplaceHer most recent work, ‘’The Shift’’ was published earlier this year. In this she wrote ‘’These are exciting times. There are forces at work that, over the next decade, will fundamentally shift what we take for granted about employees, work and organisations. We live at a time when the schism with the past is of the same magnitude as that last seen in the Industrial Revolution.’’ She goes on to add, ‘’What we do, where we do it, how we work and with whom will change, possibly unrecognisably, in our lifetimes.’’

In these stirring times, and up and down the length and breadth of United Kingdom PLC, thousands of companies and organisations, both great and small, are encountering or going through the need for often radical and painful change. Whatever the size or the scale of the organisation affected, the fundamental issues are often markedly similar.

Given the numerous change management issues currently occurring, is there a snap shot of what appears to be happening? Rather sombrely, Jayme Alexandra de Lima in his 2009 article ‘’Managing change, winning hearts and minds’’ noted that 70% of all organisational changes observed in his survey had ended in either partial or total failure. This was not, he observed, entirely due to either faulty strategy or resolve on the part of leadership, but rather to a management failure to engage with employees and to win their trust and cooperation in necessary and actual change.

There are many definitions available as to what change management actually means. Perhaps these can be best summarised by saying that change management is, in the best of all possible worlds, a management led approach in moving individuals and teams within any given organisation from a current to a desired state and, in doing so, to enable employees to welcome and to work towards and, indeed, actually welcome what can often prove to be dramatic changes in both work and personal lifestyles. Change management is the process whereby the people aspect of business is organised in order to achieve the required outcome in terms of achieving harmonious cooperation within the workplace as well as achieving overall greater corporate success.

So why then, according to de Lima’s survey, do only 30% of all such attempts succeed? In the view of many researchers into the subject, this is principally due to the failure of both employers and employees alike to fully understand and deal with major shifts and what is required in the current circumstances, and for both parties to act accordingly and appropriately in search of a common goal. At this stage, a summary of the often used term ‘’the psychological contract’’ might be useful.

In broad terms, this expression could perhaps best be described as the relationship, unwritten and usually unexpressed, between an employer and employees with regard to their mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes in the workplace. Essentially, a united management and workforce needs to march in step in order to create effective and successful change in the face of possible and all too actual threats to both their professional and personal lives.

How best, then, can effective and beneficial change management be achieved? Here are some suggested recommendations.

At all stages, and whenever and wherever possible, employees should be actively involved in the process of change. In his book ‘’Stewardship’’, Peter Block noted that in previous times of change management it was often deemed sufficient for the CEO to announce a change ‘’from the top’’ and for the execution and implementation of any such set of decisions to be carried out and imposed at both the middle and lower levels of the organisation. In this day and age this is not such an achievable and realistic process. The workforce, many argue, should be involved at all points, and ‘’hearts and minds’’ won over in the search for the common good.

A valued employee is, after all, a stakeholder. If committed to the business or organisation within which this person is employed then he or she is entitled to an input into change management. At all stages this person should be informed of reasons for company change in as transparent a manner as possible, of the likely or possible personal impact this may have and how, moving forward, this individual can then work towards both a personal improvement and an overall improvement in the company condition. Where appropriate and necessary, both further training and a skills upgrading programme should be instigated. Through personal counselling, individuals should also be made aware of reasons for the need of change and the need for an overall strategic change of direction, both corporately and individually. Critically, management needs to counter or alleviate any personal fears of change.

For further information on these and how Catalyst may be able to assist your organisation, please contact one of our friendly team on 0207 436 3636 or email

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Catalyst Business Academy


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