In Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom’s “Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change,” we are presented with a 5-step process that can proactively address the softer factors that often of change that so often go unnoticed within organizations. The 5 steps include:
- Mapping the political landscape
- Identifying key influencers within each stakeholder group
- Asessing influencers’ receptiveness to change
- Mobilizing influential sponors and promoters
- Engaging influential positive and negative skeptics
While arguments for the inclusion of all 5 steps are quite strong, I’d like to take a hard look at steps 3 and 5, with particular emphasis on step 3. Auster and Ruebottom divide the “influencers” further into 6 categories: sponsors/promoters, indifferent fence-sitters (my personal favorite), cautious fence-sitters, positive skeptics and negative skeptics.
It seems like assessing influencers’ receptiveness to change might be feasible based on measuring within these respective categories. But what if, however, ALL the influencers in your organization end up falling under the “negative skeptics” category? What if every single person (with the exception of those who made the decision to execute the change) resisted change based on personal and emotional reasons and struggled with underlying fears and anxieties about how the change will impact them personally? What if the fears and anxieties of the negative skeptics were so strong that even if your organization initially had a fair number of diverse opinions, those other opinions were inhibited or even changed by the negative skeptics? How might this process change?
In my former role, my team and I experienced a major major organizational change. As a self-proclaimed newbie to the “real world,” I was unscathed by the reorganization. First, because I didn’t know any better, but second, because I traditionally do embrace change. It turns out that I was one of very few who were open to the transition. My team turned into a group of negative skeptics overnight. And by that I mean literally every other person in our department was outspokenly wary of the move. The negativity was so rampant that my excitement turned into guilt.
Based on my experience, I find it exceptionally useful that organizations take a hard look at the politics and emotions of change. I think that if this process is used more often, leaders and stakeholders have a much better chance at implementing change successfully and fostering an organization in which change is enthusiastically welcomed.
Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change