Actionable Insights On Navigating Change in South Africa

Carey-Lyn Kurten

31st May 2020

President Cyril Ramaposa concluded his speech with “The greatest test will be our willingness to embrace change” (13th May 2020). Exactly what does this look like and how do we lead our businesses through this change?

The Covid 19 Risk Adjusted Strategy is a Five Level alert system that has been mapped out to flatten the curve. Our President has shared that it is informed by science and is “reasonable and rational and based on empirical evidence”.  We refer to this as a Tactical Plan for change. Sadly, the Covid 19 Risk Adjusted Strategy is similar to most organizational strategies – the success rate of the execution of a tactical plan is incredibly low, some studies cite a 90% failure rate.

This approach follows three incorrect assumptions:

  • Change is Rational – it is a cognitive process 
  • Change is Linear – it starts and ends at a point   
  • Change is Universal – it starts with structures and policies for systems   

Change is none of the above. To be successful in implementing the five level strategy, we require a behavioural change in every one of our people. We need it immediately. We need it to be sustainable. Our survival depends on it. We must have both a tactical AND a transformational change plan with people at the center of this change.  As business leaders perhaps we know what to do, but we are unsure how, and it is up to us to make it happen. A deep understanding of Transformational Change is essential to weather this storm and three powerful facts drive this: 

  • Change is Emotional
  • Change is Circular (cyclical)
  • Change is Personal

I use The Change MAP© from *Six Seconds as it offers a structure for business leaders to unpack the behavioural change required.  It will help you to conceptualize the change as the living process that it is. Here are eight actionable insights that I am certain will give your transformational change momentum:

©Six Seconds
Inside Change – Transforming Your Organisation with Emotional Intelligence – Josh Freedman

Change is Emotional: Most of us have experienced feelings of doubt, frustration, judgement and a loss of control at some moment over the last few weeks. These feelings are found in the center of our Change MAP© and they work against change. We call it the Cycle of Resistance. Our emotional brain works 80-100 times faster than our rational brain so we always feel before we think. If you find yourselves stuck in this circle, you will be experiencing ‘away’ emotions that block change and slow down your progress. Josh Freedman says: “Emotions drive people and people drive performance”. The longer your organization stays in the inner circle, the less productive it will be. Strategic intelligence connects you at a head-level and Emotional Intelligence connects you at a heart level.

Actionable Insights:  ENGAGE

  • Acknowledge, validate and accept feelings and the information they are giving you. There are no bad feelings. All feelings are valuable  
  • Plant a seed of hope – people need to feel that change is possible

Change is Circular: Our five levels imply we just need to go from level one to level five, like crossing a bridge. We might stop on the way and backtrack, but the tactical plan implies we are on a linear continuum.  In reality, change for people is cyclical and ongoing. As the change unfolds, we need to create momentum to spin the wheel forward.  The emotions experienced on the outer ring fuel the change…excitement, courage and curiosity. Momentum comes from action.

Actionable Insights: ACTIVATE

  • Identify the tiny moments of choice and the actions needed. Ask your staff daily what it will take to move from the Cycle of Resistance to the Cycle of Engagement so you can find the transition points daily to move to the outer ring
  • Identify the skills required for the new world of work and start equipping your staff without delay  

Change is Personal: Systems and policies lay out the rules, but lasting change comes from individual commitment to a new way of living. People do not just fall into line. Your staff may feel pushed and controlled by the rules and it is natural to want to resist. Help them to make this shift, one by one. When you have enough people committed to the change, the wheel starts to move forward. Our capacity to absorb disturbance, called resilience, is strengthened each time we face adversity and survive.

Actionable Insights: REFLECT

  • Share individual stories about times when your staff have overcome adversity – create space and time 
  • List the resources you have inside yourself that could be used to meet the current challenge
  • Collect stories where your staff have been nimble, versatile, curious and innovative and celebrate their strengths and gifts
  • Get curious about who you will become and how your organization will look in this new world 

Move from the Cycle of Resistance into the Cycle of Engagement to spin the wheel of change forward. Out of the 2008 global recession came Whatsapp, Uber, Air BnB and Pinterest. What new innovative ideas will come out of the Covid 19 global pandemic and how will YOU have contributed?

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