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Institutionalizing Change: It’s Not an Oxymoron

CHANGE MATTERSby Beth Banks Cohn, Columnist & Featured Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]C[/su_dropcap]HANGE MANAGEMENT in regulated industries involves managing people, pace and planning in the change process.

In the Pharmaceutical industry companies – most especially large pharmaceutical companies – face a larger dichotomy: How do you foster innovation and growth in an industry where process and procedure are absolutely essential? How do you encourage the lateral thinking that leads to new medicines when producing those medicines requires stringent adherence to specific processes that ensure safety and quality control?

In my experience, managing change even in a process-based environment starts with understanding the psychology of change and how people react to it.

Human beings – whether they work in pharma or in any other industry – are hard-wired for homeostasis: They want to get to a state of equilibrium where they feel most comfortable and secure. Changes in the work environment disrupt the homeostasis people have achieved in their day-to-day work lives. When change is handled poorly, the drive to get back to a sense of homeostasis can be a real obstacle to successful change implementation.

So what do you do?

Fortunately, humans are also hardwired for storytelling: they will become engaged in stories that have a ‘goal’, they find narratives compelling, and they are driven to ‘finish the story’. These traits can be used to institutionalize change even in the most procedural-based organizations.

Instead of seeing change as a short-term, finite event that occurs at irregular intervals, make gradual, continuous change part of the organizational ‘story’ and culture. By establishing a culture in which gradual change exists side-by-side with process and procedure, companies can establish an environment where ‘homeostasis’ includes both adherence to procedures and a more positive response to change.

Things to keep in mind:

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  • Successful change management happens when leaders understand both the psychological ankey-change-idead the operational effects of change on their employees, and how they connect.
  • The better organizations understand the psychological effects of change on their employees, the more they can plan for smooth transitions.
  • When employees are encouraged to redefine what change means to them – acknowledging the fears engendered by moving out of homeostasis – the more engaged they become in the process and the more able they are to ‘own’ the story.
  • When employees ‘own’ their own change story, they are more likely to be invested in coming to a successful conclusion.[/message]

This is surely easier to talk about than to do, but as I have said before and I’m sure I will say again, the first step is the hardest but once you start walking towards your goal, each successive step will come automatically.

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Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohnhttp://www.adrachangearchitects.com
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

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