Feelings and Change

Feelings in change management - from Defense and Anxiety to released Energy

Written by John Vellema

Date: October 2014


Through my training in Intensive Dynamic Coaching, I work a lot with feelings and the energies that they contain. And more importantly, I work with what's keeping these energies back and how we can work on releasing them - so that we get more energy to act on our feelings, rather than counteract them and thus counteract ourselves.

For a long time, I have worked with understanding the feelings that arise when an organization undergoes a change process. Often, defense and anxiety will arise that lowers or inhibits the organizational change (for example, when you want to work with Lean or TWI implementation). I have developed methods so that we can better release the energy behind the feelings.

A simple method that I have used to date is to create a list of concerns to get the participants, in the form of e.g. a workshop, to search their feelings and say their fears out loud (put them into words). This is not an easy exercise and in many cases it takes time to get the dialogue started for real. It requires great trust to work with this, especially if you are genuinely happy to hear their concerns and then do something with them to build even better relations. (This exercise may very well be repeated several times, as it requires trust that may not always be there to say your concerns out loud).

In most cases a good list has come out of it with many concerns (such as in the case of Post Danmark), that after the event becomes a task list for the leaders and internal consultants. Some of these tasks must be resolved before the change can commence and others while the change happens. If management wants to do something about defense and anxiety in its organization and thus release the energy that is being held back, these concerns must be taken very seriously.

It takes time to work with defense and anxiety in the organization, the team and the individuals. What takes time is to get leaders, consultants and employees to open up and create a sincere list of concerns and then handle them. The consequence is that the change probably takes longer in the initial phase (a more subtle approach), but on the other hand, we will be more likely to succeed and achieve lasting improvement.

There is a lot of talk about "Respect for People" and Lean leadership in the world of Lean at the moment.
For me, respect is among other things about listening to your employees and acting on their concerns when we make changes.

It connects to TWI Job Relations, where the mantra that we teach the supervisor is that they create their results through their employees and that their employees are to be treated as individuals.

If they do not understand this, we will not get far with our changes, as the change will be "killed" by the organization's defense and anxiety. It takes a lot of energy to implement these changes and if there is a lot of defense and anxiety in the organization, that energy will be eaten by it. This may be perceived in the form of: a lot of "talk at the coffee machine", much criticism, yes nods to meetings but no subsequent action, sarcasm in relation to the changes, leaders feeling loneliness, reduced productivity, etc.  

A thesis I'm working on in relation to continuing to work with Intensive Dynamic Coaching in the development of Lean leadership is: many of the leaders I work with know Lean leadership well, but there's something in them that prevents them from spending time to practice and then realize it.

What do you think prevents them from realizing it? Or, in other words, what prevents you from practicing and applying the recognized Lean leadership that you have read about and want to achieve the effect of?

Why is it that you do not adequately put the recognized Lean leadership into practice and make sure it's done daily?