Changing is hard. New Year＊s resolutions rarely last. Diets fail.
People regain weight. Big bang change initiatives peter out.
So how do you make change stick?
behaviors, systems, skills, technology, relationships). Focusing
only on external elements produces short-term improvements, but
if these changes are not internalized 每 i.e., if attitudes, perceptions,
and aspirations aren＊t changed 每 new behaviors often fade away.
On the other hand, focusing solely on internal elements may help
a person to feel good or a group to bond, but if people don＊t develop
necessary competencies or have systems that support them, little
will actually change.
|Regardless of whether you are working
with individuals or groups, to make changes last you need
to address both interior elements (e.g., beliefs, attitudes,
aspirations, values) and exterior elements (e.g.,
||Integrated approach to
To income your likelihood of success:
|| Don＊t just solve the problem.
Build the capabilities necessary to address underlying issues.
||Identify and address the taken-as-truth
perceptions that fortify an individual or group＊s immunity
Focus on building capabilities not merely solving
Solutions alone do not resolve issues. People who fear they lack
the understanding or skills required to succeed often resist change.
Rather than seek quick fixes, organizations should slowly solve
problems, focusing on building the skills necessary to address underlying
issues. A capability enhancing approach to issue resolution enables
people and groups to learn, grow, and be changed by the problem-solving
process itself. Furthermore, groups that grow together while solving
problems develop conversation and problem-solving skills that increase
their ability to solve the next problem.
How might a company actually do this?
One approach involves using skill building to communicate a change
initiative. You would help a group to define what the change means
for them, the skills required to implement the change, and the best
way to develop the skills. Equipping people strengthens their confidence
and constructively involves them in the change process, which builds
their commitment to the change.
Identify and address immunity to change
Resistance to change 每 even when it comes from high performers 每
is usually viewed negatively. In many cases, however, resistance
to change is not opposition, incompetence, or inertia. Rather, it
is a logical response to being forced to give up something that
was the basis of past success.
Deep, lasting change doesn＊t happen without changed mindsets. Transformational
change 每 moving beyond enhanced knowledge and skills to changing
how one operates 每 requires exploring and embracing the perspectives
that shape a person or group＊s world and keep them from changing.
It is only when people understand the assumptions, commitments,
and fears that influence their behavior are they able to test these
assumptions, experiment with new approaches and behaviors, and evaluate
So how do you help people overcome their immunity to change?
The key is to help people surface and keep their assumptions and
inner contradictions in front of them as they try something new.
Often taken-as-truth assumptions have rarely been tested or were
true once but are no longer valid. Combining skill building with
assumption testing enables people to short-circuit destructive cycles
and rewrite recurring scripts.
Helping a person articulate the specific underlying assumptions
that make them resist change (e.g., ※If I don＊t do this myself,
it won＊t be done properly and I＊ll be seen as incompetent.§) enables
them to test them. The best tests extend beyond, ※Is this really
true?§ to include ※What could I change to break this pattern?§ For
example, ※If I give her adequate support, she can do a great job
and I＊ll be freed up to do higher-value work.§
Untested assumptions and skill gaps work together to limit an individual
or group＊s performance. For example, mistakes escalate when people
withhold important but unpleasant information (e.g., feedback, a
problem) and innovation is stifled when fear of being stigmatized
by failure prevents people from taking prudent risks. Helping people
build skills in having difficult conversations would enable them
to test whether or not bearers of unpleasant news are actually punished.
Teaching people to structure projects for success (e.g., creatively
access resources) and to ask insightful questions about failure
would free them to embrace risk.
There are several techniques to facilitate this type of discovery
and learning. It is important to keep in mind that embarking on
this level of learning and change can be emotional and stressful,
and is only effective if done in a supportive learning environment.