Change Management and Change Leadership

One of the key considerations in any effort to implement, embed or mainstream climate adaptation practices in an organization is the degree of emphasis on two dimensions of change, which the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) describes as change management in contrast to change leadership.

In their white paper, Navigating Change, The CCL offers a helpful articulation of these two views, writing that,

Change leadership is about the phases of change—and the emotions associated with those phases—that people must navigate when change is constant. Change leadership requires leaders, and the organization as a whole, to address beliefs and mindsets and to develop the practices and behaviors that help people adapt to change. In contrast to change management—which is an outside-in process with a focus on structures, systems and processes—change leadership is the inside-out element of meeting the change challenge. It’s about enlisting people in change and keeping them committed throughout, in the face of uncertainties, fears, and distractions” (Dinwoodie et al., 2015).

The CCL points out that, too often, efforts to create change in an organization focus on the change management approach and neglect the human dimension of the change. Similarly, the SCARF model, developed by David Rock (2008), articulates five core needs (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) that influence the ways in which individuals within an organization respond to, support, or resist change.

Rock (2008) argues that change, even in contexts in which it is perceived as positive or beneficial, creates a kind of emotional upheaval, and activates threat responses in the brain. When we are asked to work in ways that require different skills, to learn new protocols, to work with unfamiliar colleagues, to determine how we will implement a new requirement or protocol, all of these experiences have a corresponding emotional response, potentially triggering our fear that we will lose some aspect of our need for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. As a result, it is important to pay attention to these kinds of core needs in our change efforts.

It is important to note that the SCARF model has similarities to the needs for safety, connection and authentic action described in Module two. Moreover, change efforts that require individuals in an organization to confront and acknowledge the realities of climate change are even more likely to trigger some of these kinds of threat responses.


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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