Brexit - Perspective of a change manager

Social systems, politics and politicians have a 'made-for-each-other' bond. As a general behavior, the net interaction of these actors errs to the side of stability and the overall systems exhibits a little change. The people want a change but find the politics can rarely deliver it. The politicians and their politics have a belief that despite of their monumental efforts to change, there's very little that really can be changed, as people rarely believe in it. But what happens if both factors get triggered at the same time?

I wonder if this could explain Brexit. Simply put, it seems that the politicians hedged on experience that people do not change that easy deeming the referendum a 'low risk' affair and people believed in their experience that nothing really changes even if they demand it, so the Brexit vote is a 'low risk' affair. It turned out both were wrong!

Albeit explaining Brexit is really not a purpose of this article (and perhaps all have their own right and wrong theories of why it happened), one thing is certain for both, the politicians and the people, and that the 'change is real'.

Tough it seems that reactions of the people and politicians have surprised the most, a seasoned change manager will call it 'business as usual', lets see how.

So the news of Brexit breaks out and it's a shock. No one really expected this to be true, even the bookies got it all wrong. We are on our way to a change, starting with the first stage of SHOCK.

It gets more real than ever, Mr. Prime Minister has resigned, the people and politicians are shocked and yet they insist that nothing has changed. This is the second phase of any change, the 'DENIAL'. 

Both 'Remain' and 'Leave' camps are in a shock and denial stages as no one really knows the real scope of this change which breeds confusion. Even 'leave' camp leaders don't want to embrace the change and rush to leave EU! The first wave of emotional outburst is spreading fast and a 'petition' have been started and even crossed bars of 100k signatures reaching millions in less than 24hrs The news really sinks in. The media is slowly analyzing and presenting what Brexit really means and it does look like a 'too big of a change'! The news is awash with images of frustrated and anxious crowds. The frustration is more widespread in the Remain camp and the anxiety has taken hold of leavers. The third phase of change, 'FRUSTRATION' has taken the hold.

Soon the people are feeling overwhelmed and helpless, partly as the Leave camp leaders are not putting out firm plans and partly as the Remain camp is planning a fight. Several options including a second referendum are being proposed. Some representatives from some parts of the country are blaming others to drag them in to this big change. A lot is happening on both sides of the channel everyone is looking for a way to raise fight or flight! Emotions towards England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Brussels and even London are high.

The picture above that depicts first 48 hours of Brexit is strikingly akin to the change model proposed by Kübler-Ross that we use to address the emotional implications of a change.

Key stages of change are shock, deniel, frustration, depression, bargaining and integration.
Ref: Kübler-Ross Curve from Making Sense of Change Management

So what happens next.. would we loose the steam soon and if I dare to ask.. be on our way to the next phase of DEPRESSION? Yes, a political depression pooling from the political and economical uncertainty.

We have two very clear pathways from here.

Either can remain the fight or flight mode and let the depression be the 'damaging' emotion that would annul all the benefits of change; a change that involves citizens, nations, economies, industries.... literally everyone! If we try to push our separate agendas forward and stomp on each other, we sure will reach that unrecoverable situation where it's too late to get anything good out of this change.

Or we can move on towards integrating the change.

Most changes are irreversible but almost every change brings some opportunities to progress. Sooner we accept this change, sooner we can progress to next stage of BARGAINING - negotiating and finding solutions of how we are going to live with this change, accommodate it in our lives and build our future on it. This will be the stage when moral will start improving again and soon there will be the day when both the UK and EU would form renewed relationship based on political and economic INTEGRATION driven by this change.


B.Eng, MSc, CMgr, MCMI, CAPM

Riya specialises in enterprise transformations through selective use of BPR and SixSigma techniques. She holds a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pune University and a Masters Degree in Business Process Reengineering from Brighton University. She is a Chartered Manager and Certified Project Manager. She is also a trained trainer and a certified Lean SixSigma Black Belt coach. She has a wealth of experience in aerospace manufacturing and supply chain segments.

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