I’ll openly admit that I’m not always the best employee. It all relates to a stubborn streak that I inherited from both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family (though Baileys and Garretts often claim the other is worse). The things is that I like to do things my way. I often bristle if someone tells me what I should do, if they tell me the best way it can be done, if they tell me that my way isn’t going to work. See…telling me just isn’t going to work. I’m just going to have to learn on my own. Sometimes it’s a strength and sometimes it’s a curse. Perhaps that’s why Paul Williams’ recent napkin idea on change resonates with me. He offers this quote from Marty Neumeier:
People do like change.
What they don’t like is being changed.
What I like is the simplicity of this idea. In two sentences, he’s able to clearly define why organizational change initiatives fail. Too often, change initiatives are built in black boxes and then sprung on employees. Executives deliver the news which is laden with directives detailing what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it. Great…now prepare to go down in flames. Why? Because the assumption is that change is a rational process that moves in a linear pattern. But what happens when we consider that change is an emotional process? Usually, fear is the emotion we most often connect with change, but that ignores other emotional responses like excitement, happiness, anger, and frustration. A favorite book of mine that has become a well-thumbed reference for organizational change is The Change Monster by Jeanie Daniel Duck. As the book’s subtitle points out, there are human forces that fuel or foil any organizational transformation or change initiative.
If you’re in the process of planning (or to the point of implementing) change, here are some questions to ponder:
- What it will take to get your folks ready for the change?
- How can you help make the decision to change their decision rather than your mandate?
- Are you prepared for the emotional responses that are going to arise?
Thinking through the human factors of change will be critical if your plan succeeds or crashes.