Raising kids in puberty and organizational change (Part 3)

A blog article about why change is so difficult

Change it sounds so simple: “What can be improved, you change and you make better!”. But apparently that doesn’t always work. Why is it that highly educated and talented professionals are often unable to successfully complete a change process? What is the similarity between managers who are working on change and improvement and adolescents?

Why is so much written about change management? Why don’t we actually listen to the workplace, when the solutions are there for the taking?

70% of change processes fail

We all know from recent research that this is not entirely correct. It turns out that about 50% of change processes fail. And despite the fact that very smart people supervise these types of projects, you often read that change projects fail. How could it be that smart people cannot bring a change process to a successful conclusion? Apparently that is no guarantee for success.

Rules & Puberty

Organizational change is similar to raising children during puberty. I’ll explain it to you. Life is complicated for children in puberty. All kinds of things are happening to their bodies and the hormones are rushing through their bodies. Then it is not surprising that they continuously disagree with their educators (you and me)? In adolescents it seems as if they deliberately and continuously change the rules about how to deal with them. But nobody knows what those new rules are, so you are constantly looking for solutions and where the brackets are to connect. Basically exactly the same thing that happens within organizational change!

A practical example

Imagine: Over the years you have learned how to do your job. The boss is satisfied with you and you get good reviews. Then comes a “strange guy” who has never done your job, changing the “process”. Suddenly what you always did doesn’t make sense anymore…. Oh yes the “strange guy” has left after a “short” period. Of course you know that the change manager has been instructed by the board to change and improve things. But how would you feel if someone else came to tell you that things have to be done differently? Just typing these words makes my neck hairs lift up because apparently something fundamental is missing.

What is missing then?

Well, uh… Asking someone in the workplace how he / she does his / her job, asking how things can be improved and then doing something with it immediately. The solution for making a change and improvement process a success is not rocket science. But it must comply with workplace psychology and follow three simple and centuries-old principles: 1. Keep it simple so that everyone hooks up and understands. 2. Involve everyone on the work floor and make them responsible. 3. Be one of them so do not hang out with the manager but facilitate continuously so encourage active participation, let them make mistakes, continuously feedback both down and up, compliment until you weigh an ounce. But that is very simple and actually something we have all known and do for a long time. Exactly and I have been driving a car for years and still know all the traffic rules by heart! Next time I’m going to explain these 3 principles and show you how difficult it is to stick to them, let alone implement them. * Geert Jan de Steur is a participative, bottom-up change expert par excellence. He is founder, developer and owner of Drawbridge54: a simple, repeatable and scalable approach to accelerate the implementation of change & improvement from the workplace (web-based, highly participatory, transparent and bottom-up).