As he entered the lobby, Matteo waved to Louise, who stood and met him at the revolving door. He passed through it and she followed. As she emerged into the sun, he turned toward her and asked, "Usual loop?" She nodded. Their walks had become more frequent since the Conversion Tour began, and they'd settled into a routine.
Then she added, "But for variety, let's reverse direction." They did.
The Conversion Tour was a series of talks they'd been giving to the groups most affected by the new HR software. The tour hadn't been going well.
They turned the corner and headed for the garden behind Building 11. Matteo began, "I knew we'd meet resistance, but I thought we'd just talk them out of it."
Louise was more optimistic. "We will," she said. "We just need better arguments."
Sadly, even though rationality is important, it isn't enough. Emotions count. To facilitate change, you have to deal with three key questions.
- How did we come to be here?
- Usually, things are the way they are because something is keeping them there. If you've ever tried to keep a process in place you've probably witnessed "process drift." Uncontrolled processes gradually evolve.
- Stable processes are controlled processes. Before you try to change a stable process, understand what's been stabilizing it, because you'll probably have to deal with those forces as you deploy the new process.
- What's it like to be in this place?
- Before you try to
change a stable process,
understand what keeps
- Like most experiences, living in the status quo is both appealing and troubling. Often we learn to ignore what we don't like, or we make adjustments and allowances. We learn to live with discomfort.
- Reminding yourselves of what you find troublesome helps you leave it behind. But you probably don't want to leave all the good behind with it. Knowing what you like about the status quo helps you bring it along as you change to something new.
- Where would you like to go from here?
- If we want to make things better, it helps to know not only what we're looking for, and how we'd like to get there. Compare these two: (1) I want to meet the schedule by having enough people to do the work; and (2) I want to meet the schedule by having everyone work 70-hour weeks.
- In making a change, search for a path that supports whatever you like about what you have already. Recognize that it's OK to leave some things behind if you don't really need them.
Attachment to the status quo provides much of the energy for what we call resistance. Yet, it can also save us from ourselves. It reveals what's good about the present, and what we might need to bring with us on our journey to the future. Use it as a guide to help you find the right path. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Organizational Change:
- Pick-Up Sticks and the Change Game
- When we change organizational culture, we often stumble over unexpected obstacles. Sometimes the tangle
can be so frustrating that we want to start the company over again. Here are some tips for managing
large-scale cultural change.
- On Beginnings
- A new year has begun, and I'm contemplating beginnings. Beginnings can inspire, and sometimes lead to
letdown when our hopes or expectations aren't met. How can we handle beginnings more powerfully?
- When Fear Takes Hold
- Leading an organization through a rough patch, we sometimes devise solutions that are elegant, but counterintuitive
or difficult to explain. Even when they would almost certainly work, a simpler fix might be more effective.
- When Change Is Hard: II
- When organizational change is difficult, we sometimes blame poor leadership or "resistance."
But even when we believe we have good leadership and the most cooperative populations, we can still
encounter trouble. Why is change so hard so often?
- Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- When we investigate what went wrong, we sometimes encounter obstacles. Interviewing witnesses and participants
doesn't always uncover the reasons why. What are these obstacles?
See also Organizational Change for more related articles.
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