It’s a curious thing is “change fatigue” – seemingly in epidemic proportions, at a time when we are more equipped than ever to embrace continuous change. Lena Ross and I recently tackled the topic in our latest #brainpickers episode. Here’s what was on my mind when thinking about the topic.

Change fatigue is defined as a mathematical equation — the rate and volume of change is exceeding the recipients ability to deal with that change. For this reason it can be really tricky to ‘solve’ for change fatigue – the maths differs for each person as the ability to deal with change is a highly personal factor. That said, it is clear that change fatigue can have a cumulative impact and be experienced at a group and organisational level.

Some of the signs of change fatigue include: disengaged workforce, poor performance, decreased health, increase absenteeism, refusal to acknowledge the changes being introduced.

The cause can be organisational or individual.

At an enterprise level (organisational), it’s often not deliberate, it’s just the leadership don’t always communicate with each other what they are doing and so are unaware of what others are doing.

At an individual level it’s usually personal development concern (eg self esteem, inability to assert, emotional intelligence, mindfulness)

How can it be managed?

At an enterprise level consider:

  • Portfolio planning and scheduling, decisions made on absorptive capacity
  • A public change radar – people can see what is coming, and pull for more details on the change
  • Bundle changes into common theme – so easy to make sense of them eg 10 discrete changes fall under a regulative change agenda
  • Communicate in advance – reduce the shock, give people time to process
  • Actively sense-make for people, and align with purpose
  • Provide training and capability uplift and time in the day job to do the trainin

At an individual level

  • Build the dopamine – reduce the threat
  • Praise, acknowledge good work, show gratitude – say thank you to your team members
  • Take time out to celebrate achievements or previous changes
  • Run lessons learned that feed into future change so that individuals are more optimistic
  • Ensure that loss is countered with gains

And finally, get off email! Most organisations that I hear of facing change fatigue are using emails as their default communication mechanism. That’s just craziness. Let’s get back to being respectful of the audience you want to introduce a change to. There’s better ways of doing it.

What are your tips for managing change fatigue?

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