Denial, Resistance, Experimentation, Commitment
Change is both inevitable and constant in family businesses. We know that reactions to change differ according to impact, severity, sense of personal control and involvement, cultural expectations, and environmental conditions. However, there are typically four observable behaviors: Denial, Resistance, Experimentation, and Commitment.
A family business advisor who is aware of the typical reactions or “stages” of change will be better equipped to anticipate these reactions and assist the organization to work through the process more effectively.
Introducing the DREC Cycle of Change:
This may vary from a quick reaction (“this is never going to happen”) to a complete inability to picture, describe, see, or understand the impending change – regardless of how well it is explained or how inevitable it may be. For managers who are often very aware of the causes, the need for, and the implications of the change on their own job, the denial stage may be very brief. However, for those staff with limited involvement, the denial or inability to see, understand, or support the change is greater.
This stage can consist of a wide variety of behaviors. Some employees may simply be slow at taking the new ideas or processes on board and using them in a systematic fashion. Others will blatantly refuse to adopt the new behaviors and may well rally support from those around them. Still, others will passively resist – never saying much but continuing to make mistakes, ‘forgetting’ to do it the new way, getting sick, proving the new systems failures by being behind in their work because of it, etc.
During this stage, employees begin to ‘play’ around with the new concepts, processes, ideas or practices and make them their own. This is the vital step in ensuring that a change process is effective. The end result of any change is rarely the picture perfect vision that management originally had – but rather a conglomerate process made up of unique inputs from throughout the organization. This is what makes each organization so unique and exciting. However, to get to this stage, the company must recognize the need of each individual to experiment, test, question, improve and build upon the original concept. As this begins to happen, the organization is well on its way to achieving the critical mass that makes change truly effective.
This final stage is often the most short-lived – particularly in today’s fast-paced and process improvement minded manufacturing culture. In the commitment stage, the company will experience a general, wide acceptance of the new way and it will no longer be necessary to justify its existence – that is, until the next great idea comes along and the time to critically evaluate the current one is necessary.
Each of the behaviors may be demonstrated to a greater or lesser degree, but each stage needs to be worked through and effective managers will heed the needs of employees through each stage of the change cycle.
There are a variety of ways to move people through the change cycle. Some of the activities that would help in this are listed below: