Disruptive Change and the 3Rs

Big bang or slow n steady change – which do you prefer? For most people they say that incremental is easier to deal with, not so stressful and more likely to stick. But I ask you, how much of your change is incremental? When was the last time a change manager had the chance to slow things down and have steady paced change?

Disruptive changeI was talking at a small gathering of HR professionals the other night. When the Q&A came at the end, the questions were dominated by disruptive change questions. What I mean by disruptive change? Think discomfort, uneasy and unpredictable change. Consider it more akin to revolution and upheaval within the workplace.

So what were the questions? Typically, the theme was – How do we cope with a totally new “X”. It was less about revisionist tendencies and more about replacement approaches. It was a whole new tech platform, a whole new location or a whole new management. One question even said we’ve been told to be coaches and leaders and stop being managers!

So how do we cope with disruptive change? Unfortunately, all those great change management models struggle to fit this type of change. When dealing with disruptive change we have little prep time, usually the change is heading forward at a rate of knots and the collateral damage is a path of bruised and battered egos left in its wake. Not a good sight!

Recognition, resilience and reputation are my 3Rs for coping with a landscape of disruptive change.


Find a way to recognize the reactions to disruptive change that people will likely express. Recognize those tell-tale signs, the first wave responses and importantly the underlying emotional burden. Remember that what might not be disruptive change from your viewpoint can appear very disruptive from those amongst it.


There’s a lot to be said for the strength of a resilient workforce when change comes along! For me this is all caught up in the change readiness of an organization. If you are ready for change you don’t experience such a big hit when it occurs. You can never be really ready for disruptive change. However, if you have built resiliency into the organization it will have a lot softer landing on arrival.


This may sound strange but I’m not talking about the reputation of your organization to its customers or client base, because there are innumerable websites and large corporations like Salesforce which can easily apprise of where you might be going wrong with your customers. This is about your reputation for coping with change. How well did your last change go? Did it deliver successfully with little damage, or are people still in intensive care nursing their wounds? Your reputation for coping with past changes can inform the workforce how well you will cope with the next.

Coping with disruptive change is not an easy thing to do. I fully appreciate the energy that needs to be exerted and that for me makes resiliency the anchor requirement of those 3Rs. If you can build up your emotional bank account to cope better, you become more resilient and combine this with effective recognition and a high quality reputation and you will come out the other side, better for the change and without the baggage.

Good luck dealing with your next disruptive change!

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  1. […] an emotional bank account I find close to building personal and therefore professional resilience. I talked about this in my last post here. If we do not carve space in our hectic schedules for recharge time we run the threat of a poorly […]

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