Preventing and Treating Change Fatigue

Sometimes change is self-imposed, but most often organizations find themselves constantly in a “change or die” situation driven by pressures from globalization, technology, competition, ever changing markets, diverse workforces, and fluctuations in the availability and cost of resources. Whether its organizations new to change or those dealing with multiple or major changes, many will find themselves inevitably wearing down from the demands of the change effort. Known as “change fatigue,” this is the point where change efforts can die, people can quit, morale is low, and the whole ship loses steam.

An experienced change manager plans for the inevitable slump and builds in organizational supports to help the team through the difficult time, but even if you’ve already found your team suffering from change fatigue its not too late to put in place measures to help reinvigorate the team and the change effort. Here’s how.

Promote Wellness

Change requires peak performance. Your team is working hard so its critical to avoid burn out and fatigue by providing tools and support to promote the emotional, mental, and physical well being of your team. Yoga and meditation breaks, company sponsored lunch, an ice cream social, stipends for gym memberships, and other programs help support and reinforce the best practice of “help yourself before you help others.”

Celebrate Often

Don’t let a milestone or win pass by without celebrating it. People stop investing their time and energy when they feel like it isn’t appreciated or acknowledged. Say thank you and celebrate wins publicly either with a small ceremony, cake party, or other gesture. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be visible to the whole team and genuine.

Communicate Progress

People lose hope and drive when they can’t see their efforts having impact on what really matters. Keep track and report on progress. Even better, keep scorecards visible where anyone can see them, such as on a bulletin or dry erase board. Highlight the big metrics and milestones. This will help people see they are making a difference and energize them to catch up if they are falling behind. Like author Chris McChesnney says, “People play differently when they are keeping score.” Show them the score and encourage them to stay in the game.

Reality Check:

As I mentioned earlier sometimes the factors that create change fatigue are outside the control of the organization, but for some it’s their own damn fault. Self-imposed change fatigue can happen for two reasons:

Change for Change Sake: Some leaders have shiny object syndrome and are constantly tinkering with the organization, adopting every new fad and concept that comes through whether it’s strategically beneficial or not. Usually they want it done now and don’t give their team time to execute before pushing forth the next big endeavor. There is something to be said for not having too many balls in the air at one time, especially as quality and completion are concerned.

Too Much Change: We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” It can be tempting to tackle the entire transformation in one fell swoop, but other times well structured steps and phases work better. Not only is it more manageable form both an execution and stakeholder management perspective, its also lets you set realistic expectations and not bog down the organization, especially if you are adding activities to the team’s current workload in order to complete the change effort.

When you haven’t yet reached the top of the mountain and still have a long journey ahead of you its easy to forget how far you’ve already come and become disheartened by the road and obstacles that still lay before you. As change agents we need to help our team see the progress they have made, celebrate every big step, and give them support and take care of them along the way.

Shennandoah Goodson

Shennandoah is the founder of 525 Principle. She regularly speaks and contributes articles on a variety of topics to outlets such as SXSW Interactive, Society for Marketing Professional Services, Commercial Real Estate Women, and numerous others.

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