They say the two guarantees in life are death and taxes…and some will say it’s the taxes that cause the death. I’d like to make a 3rd appendage to that short list and argue that fighting “Change” can be deathly taxing to you. Change is guaranteed and quite frankly there’s absolutely nothing you and I can do about it, it’s the uncontrollable that many of us try to control with poor results. Every single one of us has kicked and screamed like children when asked to change our behavior towards something we’ve grown accustomed to doing. Notice I said “asked to change”; in many cases what makes change difficult to accept is that often times its thrust upon us without notice. There’s been a dearth of books, lectures, seminars etc on “Change”/“Change Management”, and I’m here to say “Change Management” in its current definition is a dinosaur. One of my favorite subject matter expert papers is McKinsey & Company partly because I participate on their online executive panel (hehe!) and because their research on leadership/strategy is world-class. McKinsey & Company recently (July 2015) released a paper on “Changing Change Management” that explains why the “Digital Age” is altering how we react and implement change in today’s global business. Because we’re moving into the so-called “Digital Age” which in itself is causing some to have “Metathesiophobia” (Fear of Change), McKinsey & Company are selling the fact that embracing the digital paradigm can surely address the outdated thinking of “Change Management” (McKinsey & Company Report):
Change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated. We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick. While companies have been obsessing about how to use digital to improve their customer-facing businesses, the application of digital tools to promote and accelerate internal change has received far less scrutiny. However, applying new digital tools can make change more meaningful—and durable—both for the individuals who are experiencing it and for those who are implementing it. The advent of digital change tools comes at just the right time. Organizations today must simultaneously deliver rapid results and sustainable growth in an increasingly competitive environment. They are being forced to adapt and change to an unprecedented degree: leaders have to make decisions more quickly; managers have to react more rapidly to opportunities and threats; employees on the front line have to be more flexible and collaborative. Mastering the art of changing quickly is now a critical competitive advantage. For many organizations, a five-year strategic plan—or even a three-year one—is a thing of the past. Organizations that once enjoyed the luxury of time to test and roll out new initiatives must now do so in a compressed period while competing with tens or hundreds of existing (and often incomplete) initiatives. In this dynamic and fast-paced environment, competitive advantage will accrue to companies with the ability to set new priorities and implement new processes quicker than their rivals.
While McKinsey & Company believe digital apparatuses of today and tomorrow will improve corporate efficiencies and operations it still leaves the rhetorical question will we as human beings grow to embrace change…or will we continue to kick and scream “H*LL NO”.
Leading “Behavioral Modification”
I go back to the 2nd & 3rd sentences in the McKinsey & Company passage above that explains the real reason why “Change Management” has never really had a stellar record: “We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick”. “Change Management” is nothing more than behavioral modification packaged in a “corporatocracy” nonsensical complex way. The key to successfully implementing any type of organizational change requires leadership not necessarily just from the top but throughout the organization. “Change” takes a comprehendible “Vision” that provides “VALUE” to everyone most impacted by the change. One of the major issues that occur when change is implemented is the absence of accountability leadership which leads to the ambiguity and rejection of the change. Being on the forefront of change takes a great deal of courage, which explains why many leaders choose to take a passive role in its implementation fearing that their butt is on the line if the execution of the change initiative fails. Leading “behavioral modification” sounds like a psychology course in college but in reality it is exactly what’s required in order to successfully influence change. It isn’t really “The Process” of change that’s difficult…it’s getting buy-in from those impacted and quite frankly critical to the success of the change implementation. “Behavioral Modification” doesn’t take place by a “Like it or Leave it” demand because its success totally depends on the execution and that lies totally on those being asked to change behavior. I’ve done a great deal of research on “Organizational Change”/”Change Management” and I have yet to find a better evaluation on leading change than “Managing By Influence” by authors Kenneth and Linda Schatz who examine THE CHANGE TRIANGLE – 3 Techniques To Bring About Exceptional Change:
Technique #1: “In the Past”
Adding the phrase “in the past” to your thoughts and conversations focuses on assumption that the future can be different. Thinking “in the past” raises the question, “How do I want the future to be?” It may also bring to the surface your underlying feeling that, in the situation you’re addressing, nothing can change – that’s just the way things are. You will never consider a new potential for the future when your thought process unconsciously screens out the possibility for change. This very feeling is the block to action and it resides in your own mind, not in the situation. You can adopt a more useful point of view: that you can influence the future once you know the part you’ve played in the past. If you’re leading change use the statement “in the past” as you speak to people or overhear people making statements that tell you they don’t see a new potential.
Technique #2: “Step Out of Character”
Now we see the need to “step out of character” – to go beyond your usual mind-set and image of yourself to produce behavior that exceeds what was previously possible. Stepping out of character is major change, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Use “step out of character” to recognize that the past does not need to extend into the future, and to not limit yourself to demanding a linear step into the future. Shoot for a breakthrough step that goes beyond the old character of the situation, and find a new way to act, not just new actions within the old way…but seek a new context or framework. To enhance your own leadership, using more of the born leader already in you, you need only step out of character and find a new possibility in yourself. One of Vince Lombardi’s (Hall of Fame Football Coach/Legend) strengths was his ability to see more in his players that even they saw in themselves. He took nothing as given; he focused on the ability in people to exceed their behavior of the past.
Technique #3: “For the Good of the Company”
In business situations, when interfacing with customers you are cooperative and cordial because that behavior is required by the organization. In your personal life you may not have treated that customer in that same manner, the point is your behavior on “company time” is conducive to company standards but importantly those behaviors are implemented “for the good of the company”. Companies that truly care about their employees will be rewarded with positive “behavior” and acceptance to do what’s good for the company. As a leader using “for the good of the company” as a way of influencing change, has to be reciprocated by sincere caring/empathy for those impacted by the change. “The good of the company” is the power base of THE CHANGE TRAINGLE, as it recognizes people’s deep concern of how change effects them and the support they receive from the organization from the change.
As stated earlier, all of us have reacted negatively to change…it’s a natural behavior because it pushes us out of our comfort zone. However, change is as essential in business as it is in life itself. The physicality of life would cease to exist if there were no change, literally one’s body wouldn’t survive if it didn’t have the ability to grow and evolve. This universe is built on change and motion. As a leader, your main responsibility is to lead your people through whatever change is required and while that will take “Behavior Modification” leadership the chore to get buy-in/acceptance of that change sets entirely on you. Yes, it’s a huge responsibility but think of it this way there are now 3 things guaranteed in this life death, taxes, and “Behavioral Modification”…accepting that and you’ll defeat 99.9% of the battle.
“CHANGE MANAGEMENT”…is dinosaur thinking
To read the McKinsey & Company (“Changing Change Management”) paper, click on the below link:
AH2 & Beyond Consulting
 MANAGING BY INFLUENCE (Kenneth and Lind Schatz 1986 Purpose, Inc)