During the past week I was in Winnipeg doing some organizational development work with a national railway. While brainstorming ideas for change, we were having an in-depth discussion on providing employee feedback when a great idea surfaced from the group. After a few moments of discussion, a thirty-year employee spoke up and said, “You know, we used to do that…”
I hear this comment more than any other when working with well-established organizations. What often appears to be a new or creative idea has invariably been attempted in the past and wasn’t successful, often without a clear understanding as to why. I call this the Change Redux.
When introducing and facilitating change with employees, the points at which these discussions arise are crucial turning points. In the example above, any response that would have attempted to dismiss the senior employee’s comment, or convince he and others that this idea is significantly different from when it existed in the past, would have quickly disengaged the employee and led to a resistance to change.
It’s at these points that I apply the: Acknowledge, Accept, Ask, and Agree approach.
Acknowledge that the idea did exist (in some form) in the past, although possibly with a different intent or approach. [ASK]: What are the challenges with this approach when we consider today’s work environment?
Accept that the idea had value and determine if the employees know of any reason why it was changed. [ASK]: What factors might have lead to the idea being replaced?
Ask employees about the potential value the new approach might have over its previous existence. [ASK]: How might this new approach be improved as compared to its previous application?
Agree on the value of the idea and discuss its re-introduction. [ASK]: How might we best integrate this idea with employees today?
Through this approach employees become engaged by acknowledging the original source or history of the idea, and engaging them in how the idea might best be introduced.
Don’t try to ignore Change Redux; acknowledge the past and collaborate with employees on how build a better future. Consider an initiative you are planning that may resemble an improvement from the past. How will you apply the four “A’s” during your introduction of the change?
© Shawn Casemore 2014. All rights reserved.