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Written by: Shairose Lalani, CPHR

On October 19th, Canadians responded to the Liberal Party’s slogan: “It’s time for Real Change”.  Judging from the sea of red that overtook the country on that day, we might assume that ours is a country filled with people who readily embrace change.   We would, of course, be mistaken.  Don’t get me wrong…there are many people who love change. However, there are many, many more who would prefer things didn’t change.  While the election results tell one story on a national front, what happens in the workplace tells a different story.

With so many change management models and methodologies available for organizations to use – from Prosci’s ADKAR Model, to Kotter’s 8-Step Model for Change, to Lewin’s 3 Stage Change Methodology, there is still an estimated 70% of change initiatives failing to realize their intended results. Why is that?

Change is hard.  The notion that human beings are hard-wired to resist change is actually not surprising.  Neuroscience has, over the years, told us time and again that the human brain has evolved to seek rewards & certainty, to minimize their energy, and to avoid threats (http://www.changeactivation.com).  So, what’s an HR Professional to do?

My first real foray into the discipline of change management occurred when I became a parent.  Having already mastered the world of non-verbal communication, my daughter began growing and embracing verbal communication.  Each time I told her what she had to do, I would hear a loud and resounding “No”.  As she learned even more, I began to hear what I felt was more than my fair share of “Why?”  Incessantly. It was exasperating.

Then one day, I began to think about what I needed to do in order to turn the “No” and the “Why” into something more positive.  I realized my daughter was only a toddler, but she was still someone I saw (read: worked with) and served each day.  She was also someone for whom I had immensely ambitious goals.  We certainly were NOT going to begin achieving those goals if she kept resisting me.  So, I began to read… a lot. 

I read books and articles on “positive parenting”, “communicating with your toddler”, and “alternative discipline methods”.  As I reflect on those books and articles today, I am not embarrassed to admit that they espoused principles which were very similar to those I learned as I formally studied the discipline of change management.

As an HR professional working with a myriad of people in various industries, I quickly discovered that the approach I took while raising my child was similar to the approach I could take on major change initiatives.  Here are two of my favorite lessons.

Someone has to be in charge – and it is not a committee!

  • Leaders are required to set a compelling and exciting vision (e.g., “When you are done taking your nap, we are going to go play at the new park!”)
  • Leaders need to be on the same page (e.g. “Yes, Dad knows you need to nap before we can go to the park.”)
  • Leaders need to set the parameters so we understand what is at risk (e.g., “If you don’t nap, then we cannot go to the park because you will be too tired to enjoy it.”)
  • Leaders need to keep us excited and focused on the end goal (e.g., “We are almost at the park!”)

Life is about choices – and you are making one, even when you choose not to

  • No matter our age, all of us need to feel engaged and empowered to make choices about the things that affect us (e.g. “It is snowing outside.  Would you like to wear the red pants or the blue pants to school today?”)
  • As we age, our life experiences heavily influence our choices. Having a change leader who will listen to us talk about these influences is critical (e.g.  “I did not realize that you promised your new friend at school that you would wear yellow as it makes him feel happy.(!!)  Let’s see what we can do about that!”)

I learned that it did not matter which parenting model or theory I decided to deploy, as long as I remembered that whatever I did was for the benefit of my child and our family.  Similarly, in the workplace, more than having fancy graphs and diagrams of methodologies, I learned that I needed to focus on the people impacted and help the leadership do the same.

The work of HR Professionals is, of course, focused on people. People are critical to the success of any organization.  If our efforts are taken away from the people, and focused on a process, or model, or methodology, then we will undoubtedly be contributing to the 70% failure statistic.  HR Professionals bring value to organizations going through change when they help leaders align and encourage the provision of opportunities for impacted individuals to contribute in some way.

Despite my decades of change management experience, and my homegrown change laboratory in the form of my daughter, I still manage to see pockets of change aversion and resistance at home.  I remind myself that this is normal, and that when there is a change of consequence, I will need to approach it just as I did the other major milestones in our lives.

I did see a glimmer of hope on October 19th when my now 16-year-old daughter proclaimed, “Look at that, Mom... Change is good!”.  Indeed, it is.


Shairose Lalani, CHRP is an Edmonton-based Consultant with experience working in a variety of industries. She has supported diverse projects ranging from smaller process improvement initiatives, to large-scale ERP and other transformational programs. She is currently engaged in an Enterprise-wide project with Strathcona County.