Monday, 24 September 2007

The myths of change

We all know that change is constantly happening in any organization. But still the label of ‘change management’ brings to mind visions (or more often: nightmares) of a massive formal process to get the company from A to B. These processes usually come with a lot of assumptions, some of which have become dogma. Others, however, are simply myths.

I have looked at (and debunked!) 15 myths in my book, Viral Change, and want to share them with you here:

  1. Big change requires big actions
  2. Only change at the top can ensure change within the organisation
  3. People are resistant to change
  4. Cultural change is a slow and painful long-term affair
  5. Everybody needs to be involved in the change
  6. Communication and training are the vital components of change
  7. New processes and systems will create the new necessary behaviours
  8. People are rational and will react to logical and rational requests for change
  9. There is no point in creating change in one division without the rest of the company participating
  10. Sceptical people and enemies of change need to be sidelined
  11. Vision for change needs to come from the top and cascade down
  12. After change, you need a period of stability and consolidation
  13. Short-term wins are tactical, but they do not usually represent real change
  14. There will always be casualties – people not accepting change – and you need to identify and deal with them
  15. People used to not complying with norms will be even worse at accepting change

In the coming weeks, I’m going to take an in-depth look at those myths here in my blog, where I will reveal the answer to one myth in each of my following posts. Watch this space…

Monday, 17 September 2007

Cultural Change as Behavioural Change

I wanted to share with you a post that Dinesh Ganesarajah posted on his blog on the 4th September 2007:

“In a previous post I discussed the need for cultural change as the necessary underpinning of any implementation of "best practise" and how I have tried thus far to overcome the resistance to change. Without some level of cultural change, the team or organisation becomes stuck in "current practise", not "best practise" and the implementation will not succeed.

In researching this area, I've come across Dr Leandro Herrero's Chalfont Project. Dr Herrero's perspectives on the area of cultural change are a contrast to other thinking, for example challenging the view that cultural change has to be slow and painful.

Dr Herrero's site has a video and a number of articles, but the highlights are:

  • Cultural change programmes concentrate on creating new mindsets and attitudes. A lot of time and effort is spent in rolling out new processes and tools. There is also a lot of communication and training, rationalising the logical need for change. In all this, an assumption is made that the new behaviours will follow to support these changes.
  • In reality, behavioural changes have to come before "cultural change". People need to be performing behaviours that are specifically "collaborating", for example, and this behaviour encouraged and spread. Once the behaviour becomes widespread, it can be considered that cultural change has taken place.
  • In this form of change programme, it is necessary to identify the key behaviours that will produce the required change. These behaviours must be reinforced and encouraged.
  • To make cultural change happen across an organisation, it is necessary to take advantage of the few people in the organisation who are connected to many people. These people need to be demonstrating and spreading the behavioural change. Dr Herrero compares this to the spread of an infectious disease, virally through a network.
  • The best thing that can happen in this kind of programme is dropping the terms "culture" and "change". People have preconceptions about these labels. Instead, people's natural tendencies to copy well regarded behaviours is used.

The content of Dr Herrero's ideas, which he calls Viral Change, make more sense to me than anything else I have come across in the area of cultural change. Perhaps what is more impressive is that I have previously seen a team undergo dramatic changes in working practises and the observations from just seeing that at a distance fit quite well with Dr Herrero's thoughts.”