STRATEGIES FOR LEADING THROUGH CHANGE: PEOPLE MATTER
Norka SaldaÃ±a, Ph.D., Senior Consultant ValuMetrix Services, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson & Johnson company
New leadership strategies founded on change
management principles are necessary for survival in this
unprecedented economic crisis. The focus should be on
making the change real, making it work and making it last.
Leadership is critical for creating an environment where
effective change drives continuous improvements in
Obstacles to Change
Although businesses are constantly going through
change, leadership experts say that 70% of all change
initiatives fall short of expectations1.
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While the speed with which an individual moves up
the Commitment Curve may vary, the stages themselves
are inevitable. Leadership must carefully inform, educate
and commit to the vision in order to help people move up
the Commitment Curve.
Change is situational. It happens when something
starts or stops, or when something that used to happen in
one way starts happening in another. But acceptance of
change is transitional. People exposed to change undergo
several psychological stages by which they come to terms
with the new situation. Although the original model of
transitions was based on five stages of grief4, people
exposed to change undergo similar stages. The model has
evolved into a change management tool with one popular
version consisting of three phases of individual transition5.
The phases are Endings, Neutral Zone and Beginnings.
Commitment to Change
People exposed to change travel through a
commitment curve. The Commitment Curve illustrates the
different stages of change that people must go through for
sustainable transformation. Commitment to a change starts
at contact, where people have heard that a change initiative
exists, all the way to internalization where people own the
change and are creating their own innovative ways to
change3. Informed and engaged people react to change in
Realization of Loss
Endings involve loss of the old situation and identity.
It is like a small death with typical stages of mourning.
The Neutral Zone is a state that lies between the old reality
and new reality. It can be a time of confusion, with swings
between hopefulness and despair. It is like an incubation
period that holds creative potential and the test of new
ideas. Lastly the Beginnings phase brings acceptance and
incorporation of a new sense of reality. It involves new
visions taking root after the old visions have been put to
rest. The Beginnings phase builds on the new orientation
that emerges in the Neutral Zone.
Everyone goes through these three phases of transition
but they can go through them in minutes, in days, or even
years depending on the change, their perspective of the
change, and the way it is managed. Leadership must
understand that unless transition occurs, people will not
commit to change. The role of leadership is to understand
the phases of transition and identify how people are
feeling. It is important to recognize that it is normal to be