Making a case for change is never as simple or easy as providing a rational explanation. Even in industries that are evolving at a rapid rate, you’re still dealing with human beings. That means you have to approach change with a very human perspective.
Prepare for Change as an Emotional Experience
For better or worse, our brains are hardwired to make decisions emotionally and then justify them rationally. Fear is one of the basic emotions driving much of our decision-making, which is why you see it utilized in so many ads, as shown by The Guardian. Fear, then, should be a major consideration when you’re making a case for change…although not in the way you might think.
Change initiatives in organizations fail at a high rate—60 to 70 percent of them never make it all the way to the finish line, according to Harvard Business Review. When discussing why a change initiative didn’t work, the most common reason given is “people are afraid of change.” But we experience change all the time: We get married, get divorced, have kids, start new jobs, and find pumpkin spice lattes back on the menu at Starbucks (and then see them leave again a few months later). People are not afraid of change. They’re afraid of loss, ERE Media explains. This is why most change initiatives fail—they don’t account for the right thing.
Be Aware of the Fear of Loss
There’s a very real mourning process that takes place when you ask people in the workplace to exchange a process or tool that they may have helped champion for something new, even if the new way of doing things is objectively better. Here are some of the questions that might be running through their minds:
- What responsibilities will I lose? Will I lose authority or autonomy?
- What processes will I lose control over?
- What new responsibilities will I have to take on?
- Who won’t I work with anymore?
- Will this impact how much money I make?
These are the questions you have to mitigate when you’re introducing a change initiative. Yes, you should have the logical and rational case ready too, explains Energy Bar Tools: Why this change? Why now? What’s the benefit? Those are all important questions. But their impact pales in comparison to that of emotional drivers, even if people don’t want to admit it. Emotions will always come first. If people are not emotionally on board, they’ll find every reason in the world to poke holes in your logical case for change.
Make People Feel Heard
It may seem simple (or just downright human), but the quickest way to get people on board with change is to give them an opportunity to feel genuinely heard. In his book, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni writes that “Generating buy-in is the ability to transcend a lack of consensus…Individuals don’t need to have their own ideas implemented to buy into a decision. They just need to have their ideas heard, understood, considered, and explained within the context of the decision.”
In other words, making a case for change is not about convincing people that the new way of doing things is better. It’s about helping them let go of the old way by listening to them and acknowledging their contributions.
Take the Time
Bringing people along is most effective when it’s done on an individual or small group level. Yes, it takes longer to do it that way. But the costs of dedicating the additional time are dramatically lower than the costs of possible failure if you skip over this crucial step in the process.