The last 18 months have involved a lot of change for a lot of organisations, whether it’s a shift to digitalisation or diversifying products to reach new and different people.
At its core, change is about human beings. In our latest Write the Talk research, we explore the ‘human error’ that often leads to the failure of organisational change – handling the human aspects of change badly – and what we can do about it.
One area we focus on is changing mindsets and cultures. Not an easy feat when you consider that many cultures (and people) are inherently resistant to change, and often shelter from it until it’s safe to re-merge… unchanged*.
But if the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that we must be open to change. And not just big change programs – adaptive change too. We must be good at managing ourselves and our businesses in a world in constant flux.
How? Purpose plays an important role in changing mindsets. It implies an understanding of what people believe about themselves and their work – and how they justify their behaviours, which in turn feeds the culture of an organisation and its ability to change.
Lawson and Price explain that people need a purpose they can believe in, that creates an emotional connection, and in which they understand their role in “…the unfolding drama of the company’s fortunes.”
An important element in the acceptance of the purpose is that it fulfils an innate need in people to develop and grow*. We have spoken before about what purpose is:
“Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders. Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.” – Larry Fink, CEO, BlackRock
And how powerful it is:
A strong purpose can grow revenue four times faster, create seven times more jobs, and increase stock prices 12 times faster. (Type A communications)
But what about its role in change?
Lawson and Price explain how transpersonal psychology can support employees in finding their personal connection to an organisational purpose. They suggest that when people view a change in behaviour “…not as the fulfilment of an external requirement but rather as a way of satisfying a personal need – they are unlikely ever to give it up.”
Keller and Schaninger suggest that achieving this deep sense of meaning involves people recognising and using their unique strengths, having a strong sense of leadership purpose, and giving voice to and sharing the leadership vision.
They describe five sources of meaning for employees, all of which are equally important, and all of which must be addressed in the organisation’s change story: employees want to understand the impact of the change on the company, wider society, their customers, their own teams and themselves.
What is the organisation’s change story and how does it help? You can read the full research paper here.
*Full references can be found in the WTT research paper.