Let’s assume that a certain change has to take place in your business. What will you do? How will you introduce and execute the change? There are two methods you can use: the Hammer Approach or the Commitment Approach. The method you pick should depend on the kind of change you want to implement.
The Hammer Approach is a “top down” change management style where changes are dictated to the employees from above. Employees are told “thou shalt”: there is no room for argument or compromise or procrastination. The advantage of the Hammer Approach is that it is quick. The hammer is appropriate when you are dealing with safety issues, have received new government regulations, or if you are in a crisis situation with a customer or employee. If a change is non-negotiable, then it is best to execute it without delay. Pull the Band-Aid off and move on.
The advantage of the Hammer Approach is that it is fast, efficient, requires a relatively small investment in time and effort, and allows you to stay in control. Its disadvantage is that people get “hammered” and can become distrustful and demoralized. You may get compliant employees using the Hammer Approach, but you will not necessarily get committed employees.
If you have to use the Hammer Approach to drive a change, there are three things you should do:
- First, communicate. Let people know the nature of the change, why it is being enacted, what effect it will have, the price they will have to pay, and – very importantly – the things that will stay the same (this gives people something to hold on to).
- Second, empathize. Change hurts! Chaos is unnerving. Be compassionate as you meet with resistance.
- Third, listen. Let people voice their opinions. Let them vent. The change may be inevitable, but you should always be open to hear people’s concerns.
In the Commitment Approach to change management, leaders intentionally involve their employees in all aspects of the change process – planning, implementation, measurement, etc. The advantage of the Commitment Approach is that it is a more effective way to build employee buy-in, with the result that employees will work hard to make sure the change “sticks.”
The Commitment approach is best when you are looking to create a new norm in the business and when change needs to go beyond the performance of certain tasks to affect people’s values and behaviors within the organization.
Because the Commitment Approach requires opinions, input, and buy-in – the employees literally have to take ownership of the change – it tends to require a significant investment in time, effort, and patience. Opposing views can wreak havoc if they are not managed well. The change can get bogged down in red tape and lose momentum. As a result, most companies avoid this approach, despite the obvious benefits that come from employees who are fully committed to seeing a change take place.
When employing the Commitment Approach, companies should:
- Keep communication flowing constantly and in real-time.
- Have a sponsor visibly support the change.
- Use a team approach, such as a steering committee.
- Engage good facilitators to help employees discuss issues openly and honestly.
- Include all the players throughout the entire change process: not just in the planning stages, but also throughout the implementation.
- Create “early wins” so that people can see the change is working.
- Celebrate progress as it happens to publicly and positively reinforce the change.
The core difference between the two approaches? With the Hammer Approach people are informed. In the Commitment Approach people are involved.