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Breaking Free from Threat Rigidity in 2024: A Five-Step Plan for Change

“Change is Inevitable”

Can individuals, or even entire nations, truly thrive without adapting and innovating? Consider what would have happened if countries like Abu Dhabi and South Korea had not embraced technological advancements to modernize their practices. Imagine no computers, airplanes, or remote work and traditional rulers still ruling. Embracing change is vital to learn and move forward into the future. However, some individuals and organizations perceive change as a threat, fearing it will harm their established systems, and practices. In response, they adopt a ‘Threat Rigidity‘ mindset, becoming resistant to any alterations that might disrupt conventional processes. Unfortunately, this leads to low profits, setbacks, the departure of talent, and a series of adverse consequences.

To spot an organization’s threat rigidity phase in its early stages, ask the following questions:

  • Are complex hierarchies and bureaucracy causing slow response times and inefficiency within your organization?
  • Is strict adherence to rules in policies and procedures impeding your organization’s evolution and growth?
  • Does your organization exhibit a ‘We’ve always done it this way‘ mentality that hampers progress and adaptation to challenges?
  • Is your organizational culture discouraging creativity and innovation, thereby limiting growth and a competitive edge?
  • Is your organization prone to blaming individuals for mistakes, creating fear, and diminishing risk-taking?

These signs are not exhaustive; there exist many other indicators that can reveal an organization’s entry or presence in threat rigidity. Let’s now explore the ways that can be applied to assist organizations in breaking free from this phase.

A Five-Step Plan to Come Out Alive of Threat Rigidity

Step 1: Evaluate Current Scenario:

Ever witnessed change occurring without an understanding of the issue and a plan to achieve the goal? Whether it’s employees or an organization, embracing opportunities and emerging trends requires an assessment of the current blueprint.

To begin the process, organizations need to engage with the employees who follow practices and culture on a daily basis. Through evaluations like implementing employee satisfaction surveys, organization diagnosis, and discussions, they can gain a deep comprehension of the rigidity ingrained within the organization, be it in processes, hierarchical structures, or resistance to change. Only by identifying the focus areas can an effective change strategy be formulated to eliminate threat rigidity.

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Step 2: Build a Change Champion:

To successfully initiate the process of eliminating the threat rigidity mindset after evaluating the needs of introducing new practices and innovations, it’s essential to have the support of the entire organization. However, as not everyone may fully understand the why, how, and when of this change, it’s crucial to identify a champion who possesses the influence and authority to advocate for and facilitate this transformation.

Therefore, organization and HR leaders can focus on identifying an individual – be it a stakeholder, senior member, or experienced leader with a track record of championing similar initiatives, who can advocate for its necessity and facilitate the process. Conducting meetings with this internal agent to discuss the comprehensive plan and gain a deep understanding of how they intend to drive this change will ensure there’s someone ready to address the why, when, and how questions whenever they arise. This stage facilitates a seamless transition away from the rigid threat phase, ultimately amplifying the change’s overall impact throughout the process.

Step 3: Engage with Anti-Sponsors:

In any initiative, there are both influencers and anti-sponsors, and the effort to eliminate threat rigidity is no exception. Beyond identifying focus areas and the leader of this change process, it’s important to acknowledge and address individuals or groups who are against the proposed agenda and perceive threat rigidity as beneficial. The first step is to identify these individuals or groups and then initiate open, respectful dialogues with them via meetings or group discussions to gain insights into their concerns and reasons for opposition.

This will provide a grasp of their resistance and will help in taking calculated actions to eliminate challenges, leading to a tailored approach to address their concerns. Additionally, by addressing misconceptions via weekly roundups, building alliances, conveying benefits, and lastly being patient, and open yet persistent, organizations can further fortify their efforts. While not every opposing viewpoint will lead to change, they can seek common ground to develop a plan that integrates both positive and negative aspects. This collaborative step effectively dislodges threat rigidity from the workforce’s mindset, promoting the embrace of innovative and creative solutions.

Step 4: Approvals, Resources, Blueprint:

After identifying needs, conducting discussions, and engaging with influencers, and anti-sponsors, the next vital step is to seek approval from the board and department heads for the proposed change. In threat-rigid organizations, where slow responses and decision-making are common, this approval process can be especially crucial. To expedite the process, it’s vital to present a well-documented proposal, engage key stakeholders, schedule a formal presentation to communicate the rationale (costs), have influencers involved in explaining the benefits, and show workforce buy-in.

Once leadership is on board, it’s at this stage that an external agent can be brought in, working alongside the influencer, and utilizing the tools available to execute the process. With their unbiased insights, expertise, and knowledge of competitors, the change agent can develop and deploy the action plan. This ensures a clear direction where the threat rigidity removal process is implemented and monitored to measure its effectiveness. Ultimately, this step, being one of the most critical in the entire process, holds the power to transform the journey by shattering constraints and fostering an adaptable culture.

Step 5: Sustaining That Change:

Attaining success is a primary goal for every organization, but in today’s era, sustaining that success poses an even greater challenge. While organizations can shed their threat-rigidity mindset through available methods, what’s often overlooked is how to sustain this hard-earned shift. Completing an initiative doesn’t guarantee that the workforce will fully transition.

This requires influencers to ensure that the transition from threat rigidity to an open embrace of new practices and opportunities remains effective. Through regular check-ins, bi-weekly meetings with the change agent, benchmarking goals post initiative, creating a robust feedback mechanism, and doing project postmortems, they can grasp whether it was the right decision or wrong. Although the final step may vary as per the organization’s expectations for the change. Creating strong mechanisms ensures the approach remains transformative and transactional, making sustaining change a significant step for organizational evolving goals and dynamics.

The future is marked by uncertainty, filled with complexities, opportunities, and crises. While the primary focus often revolves around mere survival. To genuinely maintain a competitive edge, organizations and their workforce must transition from viewing change as a threat to embracing it as a realm of new possibilities. This threat rigid shift is not simple, but with commitment, effort, and diligent work, the desired transformation can be achieved.

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