Overcoming Change Saturation: It’s All About Muscle Memory (Part 3)

With the pace of change accelerating, outpacing many organizations’ abilities to absorb change, a wealth management firm recognized the importance of resilience. It faced a key challenge common across industries in which disruption has become the norm: Operating amid sustained change, change saturation had begun to set in. Leaders were worried about burnout, which could prevent change from being realized.

The firm’s leaders knew that it needed to build resilience to continue growing at the desired pace. Resilience is a set of personal skills and processes that help people reduce stress (but perform well under it), enable learning, and ensure work-life balance.  It goes beyond an organization’s ability to respond to a setback; it also encompasses an organization’s ability to change before the need for change becomes a time-critical imperative. The more resilient a workforce, the more change it can absorb. As the saturation line goes higher, more of the organization is equipped to adopt change.

This wealth management firm worked strategically to enable resilience through a common language and approach for managing change. It set in place a change strategy, trained and coached people throughout the organization on their role in the change process, and established integration points between the project and change efforts to ensure that support flowed seamlessly throughout the organization. Now, as changes are identified, the firm has processes in place to ensure adoption, yielding higher success rates and building a greater capacity for change across the organization.

Disruption is pervasive, regardless of industry or geography. Nearly 9 out of 10 people surveyed in our  Harvard Business Review Analytic Services sponsored report on resilience said their employer had recently experienced or was currently experiencing disruption. More than three-quarters (78 percent) indicated they want their employer to minimize disruption from continuous organizational change, yet only one in six (16 percent) said their organization always or almost always does so.

In today’s environment, change saturation is increasingly common, and preparing your organization to better absorb change is critical to your ability to quickly achieve your business goals. Resiliency plays a vital role in any change effort, as it empowers your employees to continue adapting through repeated disruption. So how can your change initiatives help build resiliency in your own organization?

By establishing repeatable change management processes, you can build muscle memory that will improve employees’ capacity to contribute to change. Among the tactics we’ve found to be successful are to:

  • Create an organizational change support structure.
  • Identify or create a standard approach/language for managing change.
  • Train employees in each of the organization's roles about their roles and responsibilities during a change.
  • Support the organization as it develops and strengthens its change muscles.

Successfully building resiliency requires a broad cultural transformation and long-term commitment in addition to a process-focused strategy. To create sustainable change, organizations should keep goals clear, establish a structure to promote resiliency throughout the organization (not just at the top), and lead by example. When paired with repeatable processes, these factors increase an organization’s capacity to adopt to change.

Change shouldn’t feel like an insurmountable obstacle to your employees. By fostering resiliency with every change through repeatable processes and a culture of transformation, you can overcome change saturation in your organization.

Learn more about change saturation in the other blogs in our three-part series. In the first blog, we detail how to map the change landscape. In the second, we discuss how making space for collaboration can help you thoughtfully implement lasting change.