IT’S ONLY KINKY THE FIRST TIME

Everybody on this planet knows that cutlery goes in the top draw. You can walk into any kitchen anywhere and know that if you need cutlery, then one of the top draws will have it. But not in my house. My wife looked at the dust, crumbs etc that kept falling off the counter into the cutlery draw and watched the family behaviour. She noticed that a person would open the draw, take out an item and frequently not fully close the draw. This meant that anything falling off the counter got caught in the draw.

Her solution was to move the cutlery to the second draw down so it could be closed with the upper leg or hip. The action would be unconscious. Your mind is focussed on what is happening on the counter and with unconscious multitasking you also close the draw. If for no other reason an open draw is in the way.

The solution works brilliantly. The draw is substantially cleaner. The problem is that I have over 40 years of training behind me that says cutlery goes in the top draw. It took me a week to accept that cutlery could live in the second draw. I also realise that despite all my consulting in and experience in change management I was resistant to change. My wife implemented the change, not through consultation and facilitated workshops but through active execution of strategy. On my part while I was not happy for a few days, I soon realised that the roof of my house had not fallen down and the quality of my days did not diminish. If anything my life span has probably extended through having cleaner cutlery.

If you can’t cope with change at home how do you cope with it at work. A quick scan of the job boards indicates multiple vacancies for change managers with job descriptions that variously include everything from process mapping and training to communications and stakeholder management depending on the definition being used. This got me thinking.

What needs to change for things to be different in an organisation?

I now take my cutlery out of the second draw at home, but I remain convinced that if I ever find myself living on my own, my cutlery will be in the top draw.

So my behaviour has changed but my mind hasn’t. My ‘boss’ told me to do things differently so I did. But given I am never the one to actually clean the cutlery draw I have not actively enjoyed the benefit.

To truly effect change in a business it is mandatory to engage the hearts and minds of the ‘changees’. Training staff to use a tool such as a newly implemented ERP solution gives them new skills, but does that not make them embrace change.

Popular literature often refers to the WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”. This is an important question. People change for two reasons; 1. The pain of maintaining the status quo is too high and 2. The pleasure foregone by not changing is too irresistible to forego. Any other point in this spectrum is unlikely to cause a person to want to change. The key word is ‘want’. They may have to change to keep their job, but that does not mean they want to. For change to be sustainable, people have to want to change. The old joke of – ‘how many consultants does it take to change a light bulb; Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change’ – is particularly relevant.

For most projects the pain and pleasure points are understood by the project sponsor and the senior managers. They have commissioned the project and understand the ROI. In the majority of cases, these managers are not directly impacted by the project. They receive the benefits but do not actively work in the business functions and processes that produce the benefits. Obviously it is not black and white, but in broad terms they consume benefit and do not generate benefit. For these managers it is very easy to embrace change. Quite possibly they don’t even have to change their behaviour at all.

For the staff who work in the business, it is a completely different story. They have to change and change means learning a brand new routine – learning a brand new set of habits. But the benefit of change to these staff is diluted. They sit towards the middle of the pleasure/pain spectrum and are unlikely to receive any tangible benefit from change so why bother changing. This brings us to the WIIFM question. An answer frequently heard is that you get to keep your job. Sure this is a nice outcome, but it is not one that is going to capture the hearts and minds of the staff.

To capture the hearts and minds you need to enlist the staff. Enlisting staff means creating an environment where they are willing to proactively break their comfort zone, to challenge their entrenched views and truly believe that things will be better as a result of the change. This may mean pushing them kicking and screaming over the edge so they realise that change was safe. Show them that it is only kinky the first time. The next time it is familiar – I have done it before and survived. Once you have done something once, you are more willing to do it again.

How do you enlist staff. The most important thing is to realise there is no such thing as ‘staff’ in the sense that ‘staff’ is a collective noun. There are people, individuals. Each person is different, with different agendas, hopes and fears and personal pressures. To treat them as a collective is to short cut the enlistment process. There really is no substitute for open communication, consultation and active engagement of the individuals.

I readily accept that it is frequently impossible to engage each person in a one on one environment. This does not defeat the point. Rather treat one on one as the benchmark and the process of getting there as a process of continuous improvement. Where you have a choice, err on the side of engaging with small groups.

I also readily accept that there will always be individuals who will not accept change under any circumstances. In this case, acknowledge it, move on and let the normal course of events for employee lifecycle management play out. As my mentor used to say; if you can’t change the people, change the people.

Hi, Please let me have your thoughts

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