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OCM Value Add Part 6 – Humans’ Need to be Part of Something that Matters

At the heart of every successful change initiative lies an often underestimated, but profound, truth: human beings, by nature, yearn to be part of a cause greater than themselves. In this final installment of our Organizational Change Management (OCM) Value Add series, we’re diving into Challenge # 5, human’s need to be part of something that matters.

In our ever-evolving business landscape, understanding this fundamental drive can be the key to unlocking unparalleled adaptability and resilience within organizations. One historical event serves as a particularly poignant illustration of this truth—the Shackleton voyage to Antarctica.

Shackleton’s Journey: A Testament to Human Resilience

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition in the early 20th century remains a shining example of human determination, teamwork, and sheer will to survive. Facing the harshest conditions imaginable and running out of food, Shackleton and his crew endured what seemed like insurmountable challenges. Yet, when it was all over, and they were safely back home, something remarkable happened. Almost every member expressed a willingness, even eagerness, to embark on a similar expedition again if Shackleton led it.

What fueled this sentiment? It wasn’t the allure of money or the promise of fame. It was the irresistible pull of being part of a mission that was bigger than any individual. In their collective endeavor, these men had found purpose, camaraderie, and a sense of accomplishment that surpassed personal gain.

How it works today:

Drawing a line from Shackleton’s expedition to modern corporate environments, we find a similar pattern. Employees who understand and believe in the larger mission of the organization are often the most adaptable and resilient in the face of change. While not a widespread approach to managing change or motivating behavior, those organizations that do are reaping these benefits.

  • A shared purpose that binds individuals together, creating a synergy where collective efforts far surpass what individuals could achieve on their own. It instills a sense of belonging, encouraging everyone to pull in the same direction.
  • Employees that feel connected to a bigger goal. They are more likely to embrace change as a necessary step towards achieving that goal, thereby reducing resistance.
  • Individuals who believe they are contributing to a larger cause tend to be more engaged and invested in their roles, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

What tomorrow will look like?

For businesses navigating the treacherous waters of organizational change, fostering a ‘larger cause’ mindset can be the goal that guides them. Here are some ways to cultivate this perspective:

  • Clear Vision: Leaders will create and articulate a clear and compelling vision that delineates the bigger purpose behind organizational changes. This requires leaders who are aligned with the vision, who understand and can articulate the organization’s mission at all levels of the organization. In addition, it requires reward programs that are closely aligned with and communicate the mission.
  • Inclusive Dialogue: Employees will have conversations where they can voice their concerns, ask questions, articulate the value they want from their work, and understand the “fit” with the broader objectives of the organization. This will require leaders at all levels of the organization to understand the mission in operational as well as strategic terms.
  • Team Participation: Ensure you’re providing opportunities for employees to provide input on your mission at all levels of the organization. Encourage them to define how they will contribute to the change and provide value.
  • Celebrate Collective Wins: Recognize and celebrate milestones achieved collectively, reinforcing the idea that everyone plays a critical role in the larger journey.
  • Hire For Behaviors You Want: The future culture of purpose at work doesn’t happen accidentally. It is a collection of targeted, and reinforced behaviors. Empower and your hiring team to take this into consideration as your workforce change and expands.

“When the allure of a larger purpose beckons, human beings display an incredible capacity to adapt, persevere, and even thrive amidst change.”

Near term actions you can take:

As the Shackleton expedition demonstrates, when the allure of a larger purpose beckons, human beings display an incredible capacity to adapt, persevere, and even thrive amidst change. Organizations that tap into this innate desire stand to navigate the complexities of change with an inspired, united, and adaptable workforce. But what can you do in the near term to create and build a foundation for change centered on mission and cause?

  • Investigate how aligned the organization and leadership are in understanding the mission and where further understanding is needed.
  • Engage leadership and employees in developing and understanding the process that creates operational alignment with the vision.
  • Assess the personal value that employees want from the organization and the current gap in achieving it.
  • Determine the behaviors that drive the mission driven culture you want and what near term actions drive those behaviors. Work with HR and leadership in defining these behaviors and the hiring tactics to ensure that they will be developed.

If you’d like to review the prior blogs in this series on how OCM provides extended value when you align it with humans’ natural response to change, here are some direct links:

  1. Humans’ desire to retain control.
  2. Humans’ desire for credible leadership.
  3. Humans’ preference and success in learning by doing.
  4. Human’s Desire to Understand the bigger picture.

If your company is undergoing change, or needs to, let’s connect and discuss your challenges and goals. We’re helping business leaders like you manage change every step of the way.

Steve MacGill, Consultant Advisory Board Member, The CARA Group

Author Steve MacGill, Consultant Advisory Board Member, The CARA Group

Steve MacGill is an independent management consultant, advisor and freelance writer with over 25 years of experience in Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Leadership. He serves on CARA's Consulting Advisory Board and is a frequent contributor to our Blog on OCM-related topics such as change resiliency, building OCM competency, increasing OCM value, as well as the human side of change.

More posts by Steve MacGill, Consultant Advisory Board Member, The CARA Group