How do you lead massive change?

In The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Ronald Heifetz explains that people do not resist or fear change. They fear loss. Thus, one of the most important tasks of a change leader is to help the team cope with perceptions of loss.


My question today: How do you help people cope with the loss that comes with fundamental shifts in the foundation of your organization? I am thinking of examples such as:

  • Mergers in which two very different cultures must connect, but everyone knows one of the cultures will prevail.

  • Economic shifts require an organization to reduce the workforce so significantly that cherished values (for example, personal attention to customers) must be lost.

  • The organization becomes flatter, so people who used to enjoy "managerial status" no longer do.

Heifetz refers to these shifts as "adaptive challenges" - changes that require a significant rethinking of how an organization sees itself.

I am curious if anyone in the group has ever been involved in (as a leader, consultant, or participant) a massive organizational "adaptive challenge."

  • If you were a leader, how did you help others cope?

  • If you were a consultant, what were your key strategies?

  • If you were a participant, what did you experience? What helped and did not help you cope?



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