The Human Side

“People don’t resist change. 

They resist being changed!” – Peter Senge

One year ago (September 27), the headline for the NY Times read, “White House Tried to ‘Lock Down’ Ukraine Call Records, Whistle-Blower Says!”  Another front page story focused on changes facing the government in Egypt, while a third warned that Wall Street was balking at efforts by many start-ups to go public.  We lived in a fast-paced, tumultuous world that, for the most part, embraced change. Most of us had come to understand that change is a means by which things improve…..and then COVID hit.


Suddenly we balked at change!  Why?  Senge’s opening quote hits the nail on the head; change was personal.  We were told to change our habits, behaviors, and even lifestyle, and the moment change was mandated, one of the first things we saw and heard was resistance.  That resistance remains strong today, as does the lesson that accompanies it; change is a process that must consider human needs and be managed carefully.


In a recent webinar sponsored by Chief Learning OfficerJeff Becker, a member of the American Management Association’s Corporate Learning Solutions Team, provided an insightful look at the human side of change management.  Becker believes there is a sense that we cannot escape the effects of COVID-19, be they at work or at home.  For many it feels like life has been suspended, and that if we just hang in there, things will return to normal; they won’t!  Everything is changing – that is our new normal, and a critical responsibility for every organizational leader will be to plan how they help their team adapt and move through the process of change.


Becker defines “Change Management” (CM) as a systematic approach for dealing with the transition of an organization’s goals, processes and technology.  Implementation begins with a consideration for people.  How will you foster open communication?  How will you engage employees in finding solutions to new issues?  How will you address the emotional needs brought on by change?  These are but a few considerations that lay the groundwork for successful CM.  Ultimately good leaders are asking themselves, “How will I help my people adapt and thrive in a changed environment?”


Managing change is not a linear process.  People and organizations are unique and the process will vary, but Becker identifies six steps that facilitate the CM process:

  1. Understanding Change Drivers and Impact – It is critical that people understand the need for and the intended outcomes of changes.  What will be the impact?  What will be the results?  How will they be measured?  What will these changes achieve?  

  2. Understand Barriers to Acceptance – Think about previous change initiatives and identify the effects and results.  How was it viewed by the team?  Did they come away perceiving change as a positive or negative.  How likely are they to respond (At what point will there be buy-in?)?

  3. Communicate Change – This is the cornerstone of the model!  How will the vision for change strategy be articulated.?  Do the team know where this is going?  Explain what is prompting the change.  Consider what formats will be used to communicate change and how often.  Remember, communication is never an update; keep people in the loop.  It’s also ok to let people know nothing has changed.  The bottom line is this;  what do you want people to know, believe, feel and do? 

  4. Manage Resistance – This is normal and challenging.  Remember, there will be both active and passive(denial, silence, victim) resistance.  Seek to establish an environment of transparency and authenticity.  Be real.  Invite responses and questions.  Listen and observe reactions.  Be careful not to judge.  Be aware that people are at different places in their ability to adapt to change.  You can help by identifying and addressing obstacles, and remember, some obstacles are anticipatory.  Remember to focus on the benefits/value of change, and communicate continuously and frequently 

  5. Encourage Buy-in and Feedback – People support what they help to create.  How can you involve your people?  How can you encourage them to have a voice?  What tactics will you use to engage team members in decision making, and how will you solicit team member feedback?  Something else to consider will be the manner by which you will create the thirst that gets “buy-in”. 

  6. Evaluate Impact – You will need to identify the metrics by which you will determine impact of change, from both a human and business perspective?  Did the change process help hurt or hurt?  How will you measure the impact on the human side?  This will necessitate conversations.  When will it be shared with the team and the organization as a whole?  What is critical at this juncture is bringing finality.  Don’t let the chips fall where they may.  Remember, with everything else in their life being pushed back, the team will welcome this information. 


The term, “Organization” is often associatd with a business, non-profit or some other workplace.  Remember, your home is also an organization, and it is also seeing significant change.  The human side of CM applies where we live and where we work, so here are two questions to see how it’s going:

  1. What are you doing to effectively communicate the needed changes and manage the resistance you may be experiencing at work or at home? 

  2. How would your work team or home team answer the question above?

    Embrace the Challenge