When you implement change in organizations, a key factor you must consider is control. What parts of the change must be controlled (by you), and which parts can be more guided or left up to those going through the change?
You can’t have it both ways. There is a Control Continuum, and for each element of the change, you can only be in one place on the Continuum at a time.
On one end of the Continuum, there is Compliance. At the other end is Engagement.
Compliance <——————–> Engagement
Compliance means you are giving people the answer and then holding them accountable for doing what you expect – you are in control (at least you act like you are!).
Engagement means you are inviting people’s input and participation – they are in control.
Practically speaking, the Continuum looks more like this:
Telling <—————————> Asking
Compliance = Telling. Engagement = Asking.
And what is it that you are telling or asking?
- Why – The purpose of the change, the vision and sense of urgency
- What – The objectives, goals and desired outcomes of the change
- How – The solution, or the path to get to the what and the why
- Who – The people who are affected, or those that will be involved
- When – The timing of the change, the duration
- Where – I might as well include all the question starters!
It is possible to tell the answer to some questions and ask for answers on the others. For example, you can tell the Why and the What and ask for the How. You can also engage some individuals or groups while expecting compliance from others.
Humans crave control. Deciding for ourselves feeds our need for autonomy and increases our commitment. Being out of control contributes to feelings of uncertainty and inferiority. That’s true for the people going through your change, and it’s also true for you and me.
I’m not going to prescribe where on the Control Continuum you should be. I think it depends on you, the organization, and your change initiative. As you think about the change you are implementing, consider who is answering the questions for each element. Is it you, or is it the people going through the change? The answer will tell you whether you are leaning toward compliance or engagement on the Control Continuum. Then you can decide whether that is where you should be for that element of the change.