Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Change! The issues and strategies to encourage its practice.

Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the light bulb's really got to want to change.

Do people seem to resist change most if it's thrust upon them? I guess this demonstrates that change is an emotional response. The parallels between learning and change have been noted by many educational theorists, and it always resonated with me when an Educational Designer once dismissed pandering to learning styles with the analogy that if I wanted to become a pilot I would apply myself to learning trigonometry, despite an aversion to mathematics, because I wanted to find my destination and land safely.

So organisational change should be approached as a way of countering resistance, and the best way is through creating a dialogue to;
  1. Explain why the change is happening
  2. What the change will look like
  3. How the change will be implemented
  4. Who is responsible for the idea
  5. And who will help deliver the desired outcomes
Potts, Rebecca and LaMarsh, Jeanenne (2004) Managing Change for Success: Effecting change for optimum growth and maximum efficiency. Duncan Baird Publishers, London

The authors suggest that Managing Change involves;
  1. Identifying resistance to the change
  2. Designing ways to reduce that resistance
    - A communication plan
    - A learning plan
    - A reward plan
  3. Devising a master action plan
However, the intuitively sensible suggestions of creating a compelling story, role-modelling, setting up reinforcing mechanisms and building capability to create change have been questioned on the emotional connection from those involved in making the change happen.

A compelling story for who? In their book 'Made to Stick', The Heath brothers introduce the notion of the curse of knowledge, where the communicator is blinded to the trouble listeners have in 'getting' on message. What is apparent, and needs no explaining to you, may be a fathomless pit to others. They demonstrate this with the tapping game. You tap out a simple tune and others try to guess it. The mismatch between what you hear and they hear becomes clear after trying this test. So the compelling story needs to be written by the people making the change (Discovery, Dreaming, Designing and Destiny). It needs to appeal to its impact on society, the customer, the organisation and shareholders, the team you work with as well as 'me'. It also needs to include the negatives of the change to create real energy.

Similarly, the way you see your role-modelling behaviour can be radically delusional from our 'self-serving bias'.

There is also literature on the folly of rewarding A when trying to while hoping for B. Financial incentives are notorious for inhibiting creativity and knowledge sharing, and satisfaction is a personal thing - your perception sets your expectations.

Capability is as much a mindset as a skillset, our thoughts feelings and beliefs drive our behaviour. We need to scaffold our good intentions, it takes 21 days to start to nurture a habit. At the same time we need to make our measures concrete and set deadlines to meet them. Nothing motivates more than an (achievable) deadline and goal.

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