When it comes to driving organizational change, purpose should be the core of every strategic business decision. However, in the midst of managing change, creating a framework that prepares, supports, and equips your workforce to accept the transformation can be challenging. Implementing change requires that leaders are prepared to reflect and answer the following questions:
Every successful organizational change requires that both leaders and their workforce are intentionally working towards implementing the same strategic vision, but Gallup’s research shows that 59% of employees don’t know what their organization stands for. In other words, the majority of workers are not aligned with their organization’s purpose, vision, or mission.
That’s where implementing positive change management comes in—a collaborative, transparent organizational change process that breaks out of the traditional problem-solving mentality.
What is Positive Change Management?
Positive change management focuses on what the organization is doing well and the type of future the entire organization wants to build by focusing on the positive and possible. The positive change management approach is rooted in intentionally changing one’s mental framework—instead of focusing on deficiencies (“what is going wrong”), leaders focus on strengths (“what can and should happen to support the vision”).
First Steps to Positive Change: Defining the Good
In order to jumpstart positive change, leaders should start with what is: identifying the positive aspects of an organization. The language we use in the process of defining what needs to change is critical: If we frame change as a problem that needs to be fixed, we will find even more problems. However, if we intentionally define change as the pursuit of bold and innovative solutions, the focus then shifts to embracing a positive and solutions-oriented approach.
For example, this may involve documenting positive customer experiences to better understand where the organization's strengths lie. Instead of asking “what can we do to minimize customer complaints,” a positive change management approach emphasizes asking questions in an affirmative fashion: “When have our clients been most satisfied by our service and what can we learn from these experiences?”
Discovery: Appreciating What’s Working
Leveraging these positively framed questions, organizations are poised to appreciate what’s already working. By focusing on peak periods of organizational excellence, intentional inquiry into both the past and present can help businesses understand the unique factors that have contributed to successes.
Dreaming: Envisioning the Possible
The next step to introducing change is dreaming, where leaders and their teams both reveal what they hope to see at the organization at the operational, tactical, and strategic level. Unlike the traditional problem-solving approach, the positive change methodology asks both leaders and their workforce to envision a future that is grounded in past successes, but encourages creative visioning in the solution-driven process.
The “dreaming” process bridges the gap between “what is” and what “might be” by directing their attention to what a positive and energizing vision of the future could look like. Through this process, organizations are poised to experience higher levels of employee satisfaction, retention, and performance.
Designing: Dialogue About What “Should Be”
All too often, vision creation and communication come across as a one-way street. When changes are cascaded down as a top-driven mandate, it alienates the space for collaboration and transparency that is central to inclusivity and employee engagement. Today’s employees want to be measured by the value they deliver, not the volume; they want to be involved in the processes of creating the vision and driving change for the greater good. With nearly 75% of the global workforce estimated to be millennials by 2025, it is imperative that leaders introduce changes in a way that aligns with the emerging values of their workforce.
To drive high commitment to objectives, leaders need to allow for the co-creation of the vision. In fact, new research shows that employees are more likely to reach an organizational objective if they are empowered to take ownership of the objective and can envision the steps it takes to reach it.
Inclusive leaders are able to listen to the needs of their team, whether it’s by soliciting the team’s input and considering their viewpoints on issues that affect them, or demonstrating concern and supporting them not just as employees, but as individuals. Giving your team a voice has valuable returns on positive change: Employees in a “speak up” culture are 3.5x as likely to contribute to the discussion and release their full innovative potential to create a common image of what should be.
Delivering: Making it Happen
In the final stage of driving positive change, both leaders and teams work together to implement the collectively designed vision of the organization’s future. Whether it's by leveraging an OKR framework or creating long-term goals, establishing specific objectives and direction for the organization on the basis of the preferred mission, vision, and culture that the group has co-created is key.
An effective positive change management approach requires that leaders go beyond just identifying strengths of their organization: It requires that they deliberately empower employees to take ownership over change and explore their potential. Aside from realizing up to a 29% increase in profits, 19% increase in sales, 72% in lower attrition, and 7% increase in customer engagement, focusing on the positive qualities within teams and organizations can help leaders inspire their workforce to embrace changes with energy, enthusiasm, and optimism.
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