Personality and Change Management

The recent Nova series “Becoming Human” on PBS showed that the species Homo sapiens is well adapted to environments that require change. This adaptability is a defining characteristic—it’s one reason we were able to out-compete other species of humans (such as Neanderthals) and drive them to extinction.

Given our evolutionary history, why do we find workplace change so difficult? Margaret Wheatley explains it this way: “People do not resist change – people change all the time. What people resist is having others impose change on them.”

In the webinar “Leveraging Personality Types in Agile Software Delivery,” Ravi Verma of SmoothApps explored how we can use knowledge of personality type to more successfully effect change (such as introducing the Agile software development process) in organizations. Using the book Introduction to Type and Change as a source, Verma offered the following insights:

  • All change – even good change – brings a feeling of loss.
  • With loss comes grief, which can create a sense of crisis.
  • If fears aren’t addressed, they’ll go underground – and surface in destructive ways.

Different members of the organization will have different concerns and different ways of expressing those concerns, based on personality type. Verma suggested keeping the following needs in mind when developing strategies for managing change:

  • Extraverts like to meet in groups to discuss the situation and offer feedback. Introverts like to receive written information well before the meeting, and they prefer giving feedback in smaller groups or in writing.
  • Sensing types want to know why the old way won’t work, how the change will improve the situation, and what the details are of the new plan. Intuitive types want the big picture of why the change is needed, as well as the overall flow of the implementation, so they can develop a vision of the future.
  • Thinking types want to know what options were considered and what criteria were used for choosing the solution. Feeling types want to know how the solution aligns with the organization’s core values and how the negative impacts on people will be addressed.
  • Judging types want to know the schedule for implementation and what the contingency plans are. Perceiving types want to know which decisions are firm and which are open for discussion.

A change process that respects the needs of the individual is likely to be more successful than one that is imposed from above. Personality type theory offers insights on addressing the concerns of all the key players, to help ensure that your organization remains productive.

Has your organization changed to an Agile development process? How was that change managed? Was there resistance at first? If so, how was that resistance overcome? Leave a comment!


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