Our country has embarked on a massive transformation. Heartache. Protests. Unrest. A deep sadness has enveloped our community, and it has become undeniable that our Black community needs greater protection.
Change is complex. The lens of change management and communications is only one perspective, but one I haven’t seen anyone talking about. Yet, change managers are the experts at bringing large scale change to big, diverse groups of people. I want to share some lessons from change management that we can and should apply to move the needle on strengthening social justice and erasing prejudice, inequity and racism.
Understanding the Role of the Individual
Change doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process. Because change happens at the individual level, organizations can’t change until the people in it start to. It is our job as change managers to facilitate the choice to change.
When we begin a project, we start by evaluating “change readiness.” This includes identifying the individuals impacted and the amount of change that will be required of them. Then we put plans in place to help individuals take small steps that lead them from where they are to where we need them to be. This is how change happens.
Individuals need to understand why the change is needed – what is in it for them and for the organization (or in this case, the community). They have to be aware change is needed and have a desire to be part of the change. That may be what makes this time in history different.
The social injustice that occurred with George Floyd was so clear. So tragically obvious. Never before were we so “woke” and able to see the injustice on social media right from our own phone. We witnessed a brutal, tragic, totally avoidable injustice.
This has prompted a strong desire for change for most in our community.
Response to Change
Change can be exciting for some and terrifying for others. With our current situation, change must occur. By sharing the different responses to change, I’m hoping to create greater clarity for how and why family and friends are reacting to our current state differently. The goal is to gain a better understanding about how to encourage change and drive action. Some of us are early adopters of social change. Others have the potential to become advocates and influencers by actively engaging in the change process. Where do you self identify?
Early adopters. Instinctively excited about change, they accept new information quickly and incorporate changes into their lives with gusto. This is typically a small audience, but their energetic attitude sparks change in its earliest stages. They experiment with change, test the waters before others will leap and are innovative.
Influencers. People who see that this change is important and jump on board to help move others along. Some are early adopters and others it takes more time. But their distinction is that they are influential – whether by title or because they have earned respect from those around them. This audience often becomes what we call “change champions” or could even be a “sponsor” – persuasive leaders that are open-minded enough to resonate with early-adopters, but pragmatic enough to distill broad ideas to those who may not be on the same page. These are the celebrities advocating for change, the politicians, the community leaders.
Team players. This makes up about 80% of people. They don’t jump into change quickly, but with proper support, they embrace and adopt newness. Change often requires some coaching, communication, knowledge building and support from influencers.
Critics. The change-resistors that fight to preserve the status quo. Generally speaking, it is not out of malice – on the contrary, they fight for the status quo because they believe that change will bring new problems. They want to protect the group from future issues. Persuading critics is where influencers shine. Influencers help ensure every individual voice is heard and also share positive reinforcement when progress towards change is made.
Being Part of the Process
We are all part of the collective process called change. The importance of individual-level change is realizing that it starts with us and that it will take all of us. As we embark on this change journey as a community, it is important that we not only allow, but encourage and support these transformations in ourselves and in one another.