Conventional wisdom has tended towards considering change in the context of ‘programmes and projects’. However this approach does not easily lend itself to embedding change into day-to-day work. For example a common misconception is to use ‘training’ as a method to secure change, when other influences need to be addressed first. A second commonly ineffective method is to use ‘communication’ (telling people about the change), but this will have little impact in terms of real change. Leandro Herrero (2006) recognises this misconception and suggests that the most important focus should be on behaviours. Seddon (2005) emphasises that work behaviour driven is by a change in thinking; how we see what we do and why we do it.
The change of perspective is subtle but important; for example there is the misconception that “New processes and systems will create the new necessary behaviours.” Herrero (2006) suggests that instead it is new behaviours that are needed FIRST to support new processes and systems. If you change a system first, people will adapt their behaviour BUT it may not be the behaviour that you want – it will depend on a variety of other factors. If you s=get the thinking right first then the design of improved systems will follow.
This brings us to challenge a third misconception, “People are rational and will react to logical and rational requests for change”; often we are individually and collectively much more complicated. Instead, people’s behavioural changes only happen if they are reinforced; leaders need to walk the talk and be consistent in the way they prioritise, make decisions and use resources in line with the change they expect to see (Seddon 2005).
Part of this is to embed continuous improvement and a culture where change is expected – a normal part of work. This is change with purpose, seeking improvement (rather than change for change’s sake). This contradicts a further misplaced assumption that “After change you need a period of stability and consolidation” – on the contrary, we need a culture of continuous improvement, involving an on-going dialogue about what works and what doesn’t work and a mentality that makes things happen. Establishing these new behaviours as a routine means that momentum can be maintained.
Read more on change…
Herrero, L. (2006) Viral Change, meetingminds, UK.
Seddon, J. (2005) Freedom from Command and Control, Vanguard Press, Buckingham, UK.