How resistant people can be? FastCompany published some time ago a very interesting paper on that topic. The paper relates a study done on people in danger od dying because of their overweight and bad eating habits (paper available here).
People would think that when one’s in clear and imminent danger of death, one would be more likely to change? The response is surprisingly “no”.
Just telling someone they need to change is not enough to make them change, even in the face of a personal death risk.
People need to be coached out of their current habits and into the new ones for the change to be sustained with time.
Should I refer to the PDCA model (Shewhart or Deming circle – Yes, I know PDCA is from Shewhart, but a lot of people still thinks it’s Deming’s invention. Hence the two names)… Back to PDCA, I would say that:
- a lot of energy is expended in the Plan phase, often without too much consideration to whether tghe plan is acceptable for people or maybe just easily feasible. There’s Ashby’s law of requisite variery at play here (stuff for another post byt I’ve already mentioned the Viable System Model as usueable for change)
- then, as the Plan was not that much adapted to the variety of the things that need to be changed, a lot more of energy needs to be expanded into forcing the Plan down the throat of employees (hint: may this be the cause of employees choking?). Some says it’s the “Do” phase…
- when we’ve gone through the two preceding phases (and assuming the change did attain its objective), there’s usually not much energy left for Checking the results. Moreover, if the objectives has been attained, there’s nothing to check, as it’s ok, right? Should the objective not been attained, who’s willing to check and hurt oneself in the process (shoot oneself in the foot)?
- lastly, I guess nobody even considers doing the Act or Adjust phase. Should we get there, some changed already occurred, and “people just need to copy what’s been successful in the pilot team”. Only the other people will suffer the “not invented here” syndrome: because the plan has been forced onto the pilot team, it’s adapted to them. Not to the rest of the organization (requisite variety again, plus people not been involved in it’s conception). Should the initial plan failed, who’s going to throw money at studying a dead body to understand what went wrong? There’s business to do, no time to fiddle with a dead corpse. Move on!
So, how do get that plan into place? I’d say there are at least two possibilities I can see today: one of them is using the famous Kotter model of change in 8 steps or change your paradigm and let the very people of your organization define and conduct the change that’s needed: Appreciative Inquiry is good for that.
Regarding John Kotter, I’ve just read “Our iceberg is melting“: a short novel about change in a penguin colony, very entertaining and explanatory of the model.
Regarding Appreciative Inquiry, that’s a whole domain in itself, please check the Appreciative Inquiry Commons where there’s a lot of material available for free.