Mediation: How Change can be a good thing

Mediation: How Change can be a good thing

Resistance is a typical reaction to change. Mediation procedures can help to fill change with positive meaning. Read how. […]

“Everything used to be better”. Who does not know this phrase?
The human being is a creature of habit and feels uncomfortable as soon as changes occur – be it of a private or professional nature.
Today, however, change is a constant companion. We also need this change in order to develop further and to take new paths that were previously undiscovered. Even Charles Darwin recognized the importance of change: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.“ And in the agile corporate world, this means: if you stop, you start to go backwards and give the scepter to the competition.

According to Gabler’s Wirtschaftslexikon, the English term stands for “ongoing adaptation of corporate strategies and structures to changing framework conditions”.
The mere fact that new job profiles, additional degree programmes and further training courses for change management are being created shows the increasing importance of this.

However, not all employees are always ready to go new ways without hesitation. They wish to maintain the original state, because the unknown scares.
From a purely evolutionary point of view, it is very easy to understand. Why leave the cave if you don’t know what’s waiting for you outside?

At strategic turning points, employee buy-in is the be-all and end-all. If it is left out, the project is in danger. Typical mistakes of managers are slide sets with transformation confessions, without actively exemplifying them. You get stuck behind new buzzwords without understanding what they mean. Or trendy methods and techniques are introduced without questioning whether they fit your own situation. This fuels the distrust of employees and drives negative reactions. Now it’s time to question the situation before the project threatens to fail. Pay attention to the signs:

  • Do your colleagues argue more often and discussions get louder? Conflicts often arise from unsatisfied needs and a lack of clarity, orientation and transparency. Instead of dealing with the essentials and pulling together, colleagues are now addressing each other.
  • You often hear the saying: “We have no problems!“? Then you should be vigilant, because this is a classic case of repression or denial. The employees do not want to deal with the new situation, because they either assume that “this” is already passing, like everything before it. Or because they ignore that they are playing an active role in this change. They don’t want to take responsibility and prefer to stay out of it.
  • Above all, covert resistance is threatening. Rarely is it clearly recognizable and often it is not aware of the persons exercising it themselves. However, it often becomes an incalculable risk for transformation projects. Do you become attentive when decisions that have already been made are repeatedly questioned, accepted tasks have to be delegated back and areas of responsibility have to be assigned by you, because no one volunteers anymore. Proactivity is becoming a foreign word. Minor and special cases are discussed endlessly. But where communication would be necessary, silence is kept.

But you can still pull the rudder around before you drive against an iceberg. All it takes is the right tool.

“If you only have a hammer as a tool, every problem looks like a nail.” That’s what Paul Watzlawick said. Mediation procedures play an important role in the success of change management, especially if, as described above, the project is already threatening to fail. With the following five steps, mediation leads to a long-term positive solution:

  1. Information gathering: In order to get a comprehensive picture of the situation and to narrow down and identify the problem, it is necessary to collect topics and points of view.
  2. Analysis: The information collected is analyzed and deepened to capture the interests, needs and concerns of people about the underlying problem at its core.
  3. Brainstorm: With the help of different creativity techniques and solution-oriented questions, various solutions are collected and shown.
  4. Solution: An option is now selected and elaborated in detail. All parties are involved in the decision-making process and thus also assume responsibility.
  5. Control: In the last step, the implementation is checked and various details can be readjusted. This phase opens the door to a sustainable dialogue and feedback. New resistances can thus be detected at an early stage.

Open and transparent communication is fundamental for all five steps. Anyone who communicates unclear, does not provide or vague justifications should not be surprised if the employees no longer actively support the project. Visions, goals, but also challenges in the course must be transparent, because this prevents the occurrence of uncertainty and distrust.

In order to make change management processes and changes positive from the very beginning, you should basically use the following tools:

  • Empathy: Be empathetic and try to understand emotions, needs and interests of your counterpart. Problems usually arise due to unmet needs. For example, restructuring leads to worries about the loss of status, power and reputation. Make sure that you recognize and take into account the concerns of the parties involved in order to secure their support.
  • Objectivity: Separate facts and facts from assumptions and interpretations. In change processes, many decisions have to be made. Make sure that these are based on facts instead of being guided by emotions.
  • Self-reflection: Do you ask yourself if you might be contributing to the problem yourself? Not infrequently, we always look for the blame on others. Reflect on your own behavior, recognize your role and take responsibility.
  • Empowerment: Empowerment means actively involving employees in projects and taking part in decisions. This not only increases motivation, but also strengthens self-responsible learning through new experiences and the assumption of responsibility.
  • Metacommunication: Talk about how you talk to each other. Reflecting on the communication process helps to better understand the interlocutor and to recognize recurring patterns. In this way, you can improve communication, address resistance and prevent conflicts.

If you follow all the process steps listed above, nothing should stand in the way of the success of your next change management project. And if something threatens to fail, remember: there is a solution for everything, you only have the right tool.

*Stefanie Krauss is the owner of Tech Mediation Krauss. She specializes in the optimization of work and communication processes in IT. With a degree in Business Psychology and Change Management (M.Sc .) as well as years of experience in software development, she speaks both languages – those of IT and psychology.

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