Thursday, 1 November 2007

The answer to myth 8: People are rational and will react to logical and rational requests for change

Yes, we want to believe that. Rational appeal (B is better than A, we should go with B) is a logical, pervasive mechanism. We use it all the time. And so we should. But in itself it doesn’t ensure change. People are able to understand the rationality of things and do appreciate that they are told things that way. But rational understanding does not guarantee (a) emotional integration or (b) behavioural change. How many times have we used the expression: ‘he or she doesn’t get it’, as if the intellectual and rational click has not been heard inside the brain?

We spend an enormous amount of time appealing to rationality, perhaps because we have a too high regard of ourselves as rational monkeys! We also spend time and energy on emotional massage: the country-house hotel with ‘motivational speakers’ is an example of this. What happens after the initial injection of rationality and emotions? Energy levels go down and reality takes over. Unless we have a daily motivational speaker and a daily meeting to appeal for rational change, we have a weak case for ‘change will follow’.

Viral Change tells us that what really matters is behavioural change and that this is only going to happen if particular behaviours are reinforced (reward, recognition, airtime, any good reinforcement). This reinforcement comes from (a) management and (b) peers. As you may know by now, Viral Change attempts to get management reinforcement as a given (which is sometimes a lot to ask, I admit!), but it banks quite a lot on the power of peer-to-peer reinforcement, mainly through the internal (viral) network of the Change Champions. Appeals for rationality? Great as a one-off. After that, behavioural reinforcement is the only thing that will make the change happen.

If you want to read more about Viral Change, or want to revisit some of the other myths, you can read it all again in my book of the same title: Viral Change: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organisations

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