Change Management psychology #2: commitment curve

Published on http://www.successday.nl

Tips and tricks- if you open a magazine or newsletter on change management, you are bound to see articles listing five, seven or more tips concerning advice on change management. Such as how to make sure your digital transformation runs smoothly, how to ensure the implementation of the HRIS is a success, or how to ensure the organizational change leads to the envisioned synergy. And often it seems that these tips state the obvious. But if it was really that simple, why is it that most change projects take forever, are seen as unsuccessful or are even abandoned after a while? Maybe it would help to understand the psychology behind these tips, and learn how they can really support the work we do. In this series, each blog will deal with a specific tip and explain why it works from a psychological perspective. Here’s blog 2. Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

# 2 create a commitment curve

No change without commitment. Pretty logical right? You can’t start a fire without a spark (thanks Bruce Springsteen). But why and how does it work?

The not-invented-here syndrome

For most people change, like the implementation of an HRIS, is something that just happens to them. They didn’t initiate or ask for it. In general this can result in fuelling feelings of mistrust and discontent. Sometimes it is just the not-invented-here syndrome (NIH) at play. We pride ourselves in what we do and how we solve problems. As a result we have a tendency to avoid using or buying systems, products, or knowledge that we didn’t create ourselves.

Research illustrates a strong bias against ideas from the outside and some organizational cultures, especially if it is a very proud culture, excel in the not-invented-here-syndrome. But most of the time, being confronted with change, any change, generates feelings of discomfort and insecurity. Will I be able to handle it? Will I be able to master this new piece of software? What if I am no good at it, what will others say? Will they find out that I am not tech-savvy at all?

The escape-avoidance coping strategy

Questions and doubts we all have. It’s only natural. Studies report  that up to 33% of people use an escape-avoidance coping strategy when confronted with change. Instead of adapting to a new situation, eager to learn and master it, they try to avoid change. They pretend it is not intended for them, and instead glorify the old ways of doing things and actively search for workarounds. As you can imagine, both the not-invented-here syndrome and escape-avoidance coping can seriously block the implementation of your HRIS.

Create a commitment curve

Here’s where change management comes in. The good news is that people at first might feel insecure and uncomfortable, but in time and with a proper change approach a complete turnaround can be achieved. Rest assured, even if you will probably not win them all, chances are most will change from being an opponent to a supporter and even an ambassador.

How? Well, take it slow, realize that people go through a curve during any change process, and accommodate that curve. The curve is commonly referred to as the commitment curve, and consists of four stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Understanding
  3. Acceptance
  4. Commitment

Help your employees deal with change by leading them along the commitment-curve. Achieve commitment by helping them improve awareness, understand the ‘What’ and ‘Why’, create acceptance by deploying change-champions, and celebrate success. The reality is more complex, but I trust you get the gist of it.

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