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Hybrid working: change management
Hybrid working: change management

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6.1 Managing yourself and others

When leading change programmes, there are many aspects that a leader or change/project manager need to consider to ensure the change’s success. You have already seen some of these in the course, such as the need to understand and support stakeholders through the anxieties associated with their ‘personal transition curve’ (see Section 1).

As a leader or manager of change, you need to consider your own resilience and approaches you can take to lead change initiatives successfully, both in terms of the change approach itself, but also in terms of managing yourself and others. Some key considerations are:

  • organisational culture
  • control and influence
  • empathy
  • building trust.

If you are new to leading others, you may wish to explore the Hybrid working: skills for leadership [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] course, which explores the key considerations listed above in more detail.

Survival anxiety and learning anxiety

Edgar H. Schein (2017) suggests a three-stage cycle of change management and draws out some ‘anxieties’ to look out for and address in the change process.

  • Stage 1 – Creating the motivation to change (unfreezing)

    This stage starts with ‘disconfirmation’, which shows people within the organisation that its goals are not being met; that is, ‘someone is hurting somewhere’ or ‘something is wrong somewhere’. Disconfirmation can then be used to induce ‘survival anxiety’ (if we don’t fix this we may not survive) and consequent ‘learning anxiety’ (if I can’t learn/adopt new behaviours then I might lose my position), which can both in turn create motivation to get things done. Learning anxiety, however, if sufficiently strong, can produce resistance to change through a number of manifestations of ‘fear’, such as the fear of loss of power or position, fear of temporary incompetence, fear of punishment for incompetence, fear of loss of personal identity and fear of loss of group membership. Indeed, Schein suggests that ‘it is the interaction of these two anxieties that creates the complex dynamics of change’ (Schein, 2017, pp. 325, 328–329) and posits two guiding principles when trying to balance the two:

    1. Principle 1 – survival anxiety or guilt must be greater than learning anxiety.
    2. Principle 2 – learning anxiety must be reduced, rather than increasing survival anxiety.

    Principle 2 is all about what Schein calls ‘creating psychological safety’ and includes interventions such as ‘providing a compelling positive vision’, ‘provid[ing] formal training’, ‘involving the learner’, ‘train[ing] relevant “family” groups and teams’, ‘provid[ing] resources’, ‘provid[ing] positive role models’, ‘provid[ing] support groups in which learning problems can be aired and discussed’ and ‘remov[ing] barriers and build[ing] new supporting systems and structures’ (Schein, 2017, pp. 328–329)

  • Stage 2 – Learning new concepts, new meanings for old concepts and new standards for judgement (the actual change and learning process)

    This stage highlights two mechanisms to learn new behaviour, beliefs and values; imitating a role model and scanning the environment and using trial and error to invent new solutions until something works. In practice, again, Schein (2017) recommends a mix of both, as the first may be more expedient, but the second, due to the feeling of ‘ownership’, is likely to be more embedded. Schein also suggests that an organisation might have to ‘unlearn something and learn new things that might challenge our competencies, our role or power position, our identity elements, and possibly our group membership’ to move forward.(Schein, 2017, pp. 330–337)

  • Stage 3 – Refreezing, internalising and learning agility

    A period of stability is required to reinforce new behaviours and emphasises that change success criteria should be defined in concrete behavioural terms and not as ‘culture change’.