Change Management: The Valley Of Despair

Lluís Matamala Consultant of Gestión del Cambio Empresarial

When we design a change, we look for a new way of doing things to improve the management of business processes and resources of an organization, and the success of such change depends on the goodness of the idea, its planning and execution, and that people assimilate it being disposed to abandon the “status quo”.

As the science of change management indicates, there are many probabilities that before reaching the desired levels of productivity, people will go through a phase called the “Valley of Despair”. Knowing what it is, why it occurs, and how to manage it will help us to achieve our desired goal.

What is the Valley of Despair and why does it happen?

It is the moment of greatest resistance that begins when the teams perceive the imminent change and it maintains when they begin to live it because the sensation of loss of what they had, or how they did it, the instability that enters their comfort zone, the very doubts of whether they will be able to carry out the new way of doing, and that spiral grows and even in some people doubting the future of their own company and/or organization. In short, because their negative thoughts outweigh their positive ones, and their concerns outweigh their own resources. Therefore, their motivation level decreases and their productivity will surely decline, when we have implemented the changes to be more productive.

Although it is a predictable phase, as those responsible for the change we cannot allow ourselves to be in it for long, as the effects are harmful to the future credibility of the organization. So, the mission is to minimize the effects of the valley through the activities proposed by the science of change management.

We cannot change what we live but how to live it

Here are two key aspects to address this situation.

1- Anticipating grief

We must put ourselves in people’s shoes, think about how they will live the situation and what resistance they will put up on both emotional levels as practical. Later, we think about messages to give solution to the objections, and in the essential and planned work spaces for the communication of the project, we will share with the team the sensations that we will live and how we will manage them individually and collectively. We must have patience, not only will they understand the coherence of the idea, but also how we will help them to live it.

In these initial phases of communication, the messages will be oriented to why we need to change, what we are looking for, what improvements will be produced at a personal and company level, how the organization will help you, how you can manage the personal process of change, …

Therefore, we are anticipating grief to make the sense of loss as less traumatic as possible

2- Accompany

Everything and anticipate, when we are in the middle of the change, thoughts of loss arise again in people, then we must have planned activities to accompany them both in technical learning and in their emotional state. Do not leave them alone!

It is important to individualize, each person lives it in his own way according to the person nature, the person history in the organization, and previous experiences.  We will observe and listen in order to provide feedback in the most efficient way possible.

So, in the valley of despair, anticipate and accompany.


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