November 18, 2008

“But I don’t want to change”

Posted in Change Management, ITSM tagged at 1:22 pm by Molly

“Why?  change is exciting, its innovative, new techniques are used, its more efficient (definitely should be otherwise its a useless expensive exercise), less intensive with new technologies constantly changing the way we can automate things, they are doing it at our competitors, and we should keep up”

See, change is difficult to get across to people, never mind the whole organisation.  People don’t want to change, they are afraid of what may happen to their roles, their functions, their ways of working, their 9 to 5 mentality, their performance ratings and subsequent payrises.

Trouble is, when we wake up in the mornings, it’s a changed day, the weather has changed, our personality has changed, we are a day older than yesterday, we change our clothes, our surroundings have changed, and before you know it we have to adapt to that change.  So why are we so reluctant?

Change can be viewed as:

  • learning change
  • personality change
  • behavioural change
  • cognitive change
  • managing change
  • humanistic psychology change

In the early 90’s I loved my brand new Motorola brick mobile phone, the one that needed two hands to hold, clip it on your belt and you walked with a limp, battery life of an hour, phone bills to make you weep. Now I have a Nokia E71 smartphone, sleek and slim, with a camera, wifi, GPS, it plays my music for God’s sake.  I have adapted to a change in the mobile phone market.  I’d look pretty ridiculous walking around with that Motorola brick now, and it probably wouldn’t work anymore because of the frequency bands or network architectures of today.

Simple – we all adapt, maybe slowly at first, to the technological advances or maybe we are forced to adapt due to another change happening elsewhere upstream or downstream.

So how can we help change along?

We must all understand and reduce the anxiety that changes bring to ourselves and others, to our own and others teams, and to our and other organisations. (I say other organisations because there may be suppliers involved, and they would need to understand the tranistion too).

What would happen if your CEO today said to all employees “you must all work 12 hours per day, there will be no extra money paid to you”. (Maybe today isn’t a good example since we are in the midst of a financial crisis, deflation, recession) but let’s imagine all is happy in the world.  I bet you’d consider quitting your job, or at least looking around for a new job.  Why would you do that?  It’s because your CEO ‘bullied’ you and the other employees into a change without showing you any of the benefits or advantages that could be gained.  What if the CEO said “you must all work 12 hours a day, with no extra money, but you will have a percentage of the share price when we make our acquisition of ABC plc. I hope to give you all a 25% bonus at Christmas time after our acquisition transition period has settled”.  Now you see the whole picture, now you can relate the change in the circumstance as well as the added bonus of money at Christmas time for your efforts in the short term. So you should be feeling more empowered to make a better judgement about your own circumstances.

We sometimes want to see the physical success a change brings, for example, a new Service Desk with new processes brings with it efficient call logging, customer satisfaction, reduced outages and complaints, and after a while the Service Desk operator has more time to undertake training in some other areas.  BUT, let’s say the new successes can’t be visualised immediately because during the transition period where staff are being trained in the new process means there are less operators taking more calls per operator, there are more complaints coming through because efficiency has dropped.  It’s frustrating to say the least, because your team is not running at 100% efficiency – but it will.  This is the transition period that has the potential to make or break both morale and the benefits of the new change in your organisation. Everyone is alert to the fact that anything can go wrong in this timeframe, and there will be the cynics in your organisation who want to see failure because they are the ones who don’t have or understand the vision of change.

As a manager you must remain cool headed and focused throughout.  What would happen if a member of your team caught you bad mouthing the new functionality and process?  Bad news spreads faster than good news.  Weather the initial storm, and have the clear vision to see calmer waters and clearer skies ahead. Pass your vision onto your staff and if need be pull the ‘cynics’ aside and ask them why they think the change is not beneficial, maybe they haven’t understood the process.  Mentor them either individually or in a small group, get feedback from them, its not a one sided communication exercise, spend time calmly explaining what the corporate or department vision is until its clear to them.  Customer surveys are great exercise tools, but use them wisely and understand why you are collecting the data and for what means.  In some cases, organisations promote changes in their organisations with corporate gifts, pens, mugs, flags etc … this highlights to other people and departments that something new is afoot and that it is still ‘business as usual’ but that a change also brings a few teething problems.  Keep those teething problems to a minimum though.  Produce a small leaflet or news article in the company newsletter or intranet site, make people aware.

Communication is the only tool you have to highlight the benefits of the change, use it wisely and carefully.  Make sure that the organisation’s management highlight the transition during board meetings, it shouldn’t be a ‘ram down your throat’ exercise.

After a period of 3 months, conduct a survey and see how your change has been received within your organisation.  Also, has the change been beneficial to the business – should be your very first question.  Identify where you can make small improvements. Avoid another large change immediately after roll-out, this will cause more confusion, but certainly tweaks here and there should be seen as improvements.  Remember continual improvement is a process too, not a daily process but a process that will improve individual and team efficiency, and benefit the organisation on the whole.


I shall write more on this subject at a later date.



  1. Geoff Salt said,

    I think to get people to change you need to answer their question: “What’s in it for me?”

    In the early example of your mobile brick, you talk about the things that changed that benefited you i.e. primarily lower cost but also the size, the camera, the WiFi, the GPS and it plays music! So of course you are going to ditch your brick for all that. What would be more difficult for a salesman is to persuade you to change your current phone for a very similar model. You would immediately ask “what’s in it for me?” and, if the salesman had nothing to offer, you wouldn’t change.

    So it is with change in general, if there’s nothing in it for them, why should they bother?

    So, as you say, a whole load of marketing needs to take place to convince them that the change has something in it for them. Unless you sack them all and start from scratch!

    So I would identify what these benefits are and then sell, sell, sell!

  2. Enjoyed the article and agree to the fact that “What’s in it for me?” (see comment by Geoff Salt) is the most important factor but I would be careful with bonuses, etc. Staff motivated by their own acheivement and pride in work is according to me the most important success factor in management of change.

    The “Scandinavian school” in managing change would say something like “Make the guys on the floor involved in decision making in order to motivate change”. Google for “Riv pyramiderna” and search for “Moments of truth” within the result and you will find an old but interesting book on the Swedish management style (Authored by the guy at the “helm” for Scandinavian Airlines)

    However I do not agree to involving too many people in decisions. (It is a given but important to mention here). One of the drawbacks of the demotratic approach is that it takes time. I have worked for German companies for 8 years and I see the drawbacks and positive effects of a more top stearing somtimes implicit “Do as I say, or else!” approach. Therefore I always try to judge the situation (social, market, culture) and assess the need before deciding on my approach. I always end up with a triangulated approach taken from experience and reading about different management styles. With different styles and approach during different phases of change one has a greater chance to succeed. Using consultants as bringers of “bad news”, playing hard ball is an effective way of dealing with the risk of management miss-trust.

    Today we are living in the “Bussiness @ the speed of thought” (Bill Gates) era with constant change. If I ever change career into being a line – manager I will strive to keep in constant change in order to never get stuck in old routines. I mean let’s face it; In order to survive one must make “Change” a core business. Keep the “Plan, Implement, Assess” cycle spinning.

  3. Molly said,

    I wasn’t using bonuses or financial incentives to sway and push for a change in an organisation. I was using this example as a means to show the lack of information that can be circulated ‘top down’. Using this lack of information from the CEO example, we see resources confused in regards to what the new change brings to them, their department and the organisation. Some people, because I hate to generalise, are naturally sceptical to changes, they feel threatened or scared, they see a change in their role, and wonder how they fit into the ‘new scheme’ and there will be the staff members who can’t wait to embrace the changes because they may have come from other organisations where change was more dynamic therefore can understand what this process involves.

    Without a structured communication and ‘marketing’ plan to roll-out the change, you’re doomed to failure and staff morale hits rock bottom. Mentioning pride and achievement in work, well this has to be nurtured from both within the team and from peers, and involves its own efforts. I’ve worked with disagreeable, disgruntled, unmotivated staff, I think we all have at least once. They may indeed work 100%, but do they go that extra mile, stay 30 minutes more after everyone else has left the office? I know from my experience that finding the root cause of their anxiety and angst, and making them involved in not only the change process but any process, produces far more results and brings them back into the team. Involving users motivates change, of course, we all know that from our experiences, but so does the misunderstood and often disregarded management approach to it. Which one holds more weight at the end of the day is something that would be interesting to read about.

    I have worked for German owned companies and most recently a Swedish owned company. There was a saying about the Swedish approach to decision making “Let’s have a meeting” and when a decision had to be reached, it was decided “Let’s have another meeting to decide that”! Meetings fall into two distinct categories: the succinct and objective orientated one and the bad meetings. Involving the ‘right’ decision making people is a major part of a good chairperson.

    You quoted “make the guys on the floor involved in decision making in order to motivate change” and in your subsequent paragraph you “disagree involving too many people in decisions”, I’m not sure which direction you’re leaning towards on this subject.

    My final footnote on change is, let’s not elude ourselves that change costs money. Updating a service desk, new process for incident management, new email server, upgraded disaster recovery system, investigating a new distribution supplier – all involve (1) time (2) resources and (3) money from analysis to maintenance. The bottom line on these examples of change is: they need to add value, and not just from the monetary side. Updating the service desk may simply involve a process improvement exercise to align with other departments or it may require something more substantial.

  4. raghu said,

    Enjoyed the piece. Very relevant at this point in time globally and especially in the Indian context ( from where I am writing this). I work with a consulting company that works across several frame works and the challenge we always face is getting people to accept change and support change. As some of the others have pointed out, providing incentives to change helps but the bar keeps rising each time and if the incentive to change is not something that appeals to an individual it falls flat. what definitely helps is bringing about a sense of ownership and buy-in from the word go.

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