The living side of change (guest blog from Jenny Davidson)

Jenny’s one of the most intuitive people I know, she runs the reward side of things at CSC and has recently started writing her ideas down. This is an edited version of a recent blog; I like it because it focuses on what can be done to help people to change behaviours – Jenny only thinks of theory in terms of “outcomes” more specifically “good outcomes that make things better”.



CSC’s new CEO, Mike Lawrie, joined today and addressed our employees on the change journey ahead of us.

 “Many organisational change programs fail as the result of some very deep misunderstanding of who people are and what is going on inside the organisation.”

This reminded me of the central experience  of Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge  that she explained at a recent master class I attended


In her experience the most successful change programs are ones which have focused on both sides of the human brain – the Left (Mechanical) Brain and the Right (Living system) Brain.



The Left side representing an effectiveness and efficiency focus. Metrics and measurements; technical system and process design; evidence based decision criteria. The work which is completed so well by McKinsey or Bain.


The Right side representing an energy focus. Imagination; engagement; participation; mobilisation and empowerment.


Organisational change needs to combine changes in processes, strategies and systems with a shift in people’s values and behaviours. Therefore change leaders need to be far better at understanding and managing the human dynamics within an organisation and managing the resistance to change programs.


Two wise quotes from Organisational Design (OD) consultants:


“People will support what they help to create.” Weisbord
“People do not resist change; people resist being changed.” Richard Beckhard


Mee-Yan states four observations on  resistance to change:


  1. Assume resistance is rationally based, even though it is often expressed emotionally.

  2. Resistance should always be respected as a statement of who people are and what they stand for.

  3. Resistance can be both active and passive.

  4.  Resistance is usually predictable.

Multiple realities/perspectives exist the moment that change is announced.


An individual’s realities are stated as feelings which are supported by values and worldviews of their upbringing, professional background, personality etc.


By not respecting the legitimacy of each reality and trying to get each group to become interested in one defined reality, the change will become too difficult and will collapse.


So “no taking sides” as all positions are real and legitimate.


It is usually the transition process that people fight against as they lose their identity at the ending of the current world as they know it, become disorientated in the neutral zone and have a fear of failure in the new environment. So managing the transition process is vital –here are some tips:


Neutral Zone
New Beginning
Sell the why
Use the opportunity to try out new things
Re-define performance measures
Anticipate and acknowledge what is being lost
Set short term milestones
Ensure some quick successes
Define what is ending and also what is not
Communication is vital
Engage people in defining and practising new behaviours
Treat the past with respect (do not rubbish it)
Create and celebrate new experiences
Create symbols of the new beginning
Open all communication channels
Monitor the transition
Build commitment and enthusiasm
Build the leadership commitment to change
Provide support to people
Expect a mixture of emotions – some positive and some still resisting
Expect strong (and probably negative) reactions
Expect anxiety and confusion but some successes

To help manage change we should look for role models who can kick start the new ways of working – finding people that are admired, trusted and respected to guide and support.


One thing to remember is that an organisation does not go on hold whilst the change is taking place, but it needs to continue to function during an interim period.


If the interim organisation or state is not recognised and legitimized, people will get confused and will not be sure whether to come forward and help with the change or stay put. The organisation therefore needs to pay attention to the following:


  • Interim Components– which strategic priorities, structures, systems, culture, roles and rewards will need to be adjusted for the interim period?

  • Interim Leadership– who is best equipped to lead the change? Who needs to be released from their current leadership roles to lead on the change work?

  • Interim structure– what task force, committee will co-ordinate the transformation work? How should these temporary structures be aligned and how do they fit or relate to the normal governance structure?

  • Interim capability– Who can be released to do the change work and who can step in to do their job as part of your succession planning/development plans? What is needed to keep the core business services going at a high quality standard whilst the organisation is undergoing transformation?

  • Interim performance focus– is there a need to adjust the strategic priorities and slim down processes to ensure the work gets done as well as the change?

  • Other interim adjustments – what other adjustments may need to be made with relationships with strategic partners, outsourcing partners, IT systems, finance systems?

HR will also need to take a lead in the “people component” of the interim organisation by perhaps adjusting and legitimising some of the following:

  • The Performance management process and individuals targets

  • The Reward system – eg if bonus are aligned to the current structures and performance targets

  • Talent management and succession planning

  • Leadership development and coaching

  • Having sufficient robust people data to help select change team members.

 Thanks Jenny .

The original of this blog can be found at


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to The living side of change (guest blog from Jenny Davidson)

  1. Pingback: innocence, resistance, and responsibility – 3 ways of relating to change « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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