How to Motivate Employees Toward Organizational Change: 3 Levels of WHY

October 10, 2022by Jeremy Pollack

Change is almost never easy. Whether we’re proposing a personal, individual change or a change in direction for an entire team or company, such efforts require the proper motivation to start, continue, and see the change through to the end. To get people motivated to participate in any kind of change, they have to be very clear on the WHY.  That is, why it’s important and beneficial and why we think the proposed direction is the correct one for success. The WHY is the key motivating factor to motivate employees in any organizational change.

There are 3 general levels to clarify when developing the WHY: the problem, the solution, and the method.

The WHY of the Problem

When we identify a problem, we have to be clear about why this is a problem. In other words: what negative consequences are resulting from the current state, and why do we believe that the consequences are rising from this particular issue? Why do we believe that this is indeed the problem causing the negative outcomes?  How can we prove this? Subsequently, what are the potentially significant benefits of solving this problem for all involved in the change process? That is, what do we get if we solve the problem (i.e. why is it worth putting effort into this)? Additionally, why do we believe this problem is actually solvable? As a first step in any change process, all of these questions should be clearly answered and articulated to anyone participating in or contributing to the change.

The WHY of the Solution

Once we agree on what the problem is and that it’s actually solvable, the next level to develop is the proposed solution. To motivate people toward a particular direction or end goal, we must clearly identify why we believe that this is the right solution or goal to fix the problem. Has this type of solution worked to fix the problem in the past? Is this solution achievable, and why do we think so? How will we know when we’ve achieved the solution, and how long do we anticipate that will take? What does everyone get (i.e., what are the benefits to each person involved) of achieving this solution? Again, all of these must be clearly answered to motivate the sort of effort it will require on everyone’s part to make significant changes toward solving the problem.

The WHY of the Method

Finally, we propose a method or list of action steps to achieve the solution. To motivate people to participate in these sometimes arduous methods, we must communicate why we believe the method we’ve come up with is the right method to achieve the solution and ultimately solve the problem. Has this method worked in the past to achieve this type of solution or goal? Why is this method better, easier, or quicker than other potential methods? How will we measure progress or success to ensure that this is the correct path, and what will we do to optimize or adjust the method should we realize we are not making progress toward the identified solution? Again, all important questions to answer and articulate if we want people to stay motivated toward the goal.

Getting Help with the WHY

This 3-level process of determining our WHY in order to motivate individuals and teams towards change can be applied to any sort of change — individual or organizational. And it can be applied by anyone. However, many individuals or companies hire experts to help them with changes, including coaches, therapists, or consultants. The reason to bring on experts to help with change processes, in addition to having someone specifically own or spearhead the effort of change management, is because the right experts will have the experience of solving similar problems. That is, they will (or should) have the knowledge and supporting data to answer all questions at each level of WHY, and an understanding of the instruments and tools to help foster the change and measure its progress along the way. If an individual or organization can answer and clearly articulate all three levels on their own, it may be worth trying to change without outside help. If they cannot, or they don’t fully trust their own answers, then hiring an outside expert to help foster the change may be a good idea. Just make sure that expert has successfully helped similar teams solve similar problems and can clearly communicate the WHY at all three levels to help establish and maintain motivation toward change.
If your company could use help managing engagement and motivation during organizational change processes, contact us at Pollack Peacebuilding. We’ve helped hundreds of clients identify their WHY and motivate teams toward positive change.

Jeremy Pollack

Jeremy Pollack is the Founder and CEO of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.

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