This is Part Five of our five-part post on issues surrounding people and performance and managing and leading change. Included are some ideas about:
- managing change and personal growth
- assisting change management initiatives
- developing individual and organizational potential
Part One of this series talks about the danger of knowing The Answer when it comes to working to manage and lead change and you can click the link or the image at right to go to the beginning of this article.
(Here we briefly talk about a simple involving and engaging model for managing and leading change, something that meshes up neatly into our beliefs about involving and engaging people for workplace improvement. I will write more about the model in another post.)
For nearly 30 years, my associates and I have been working with a very actionable and understandable model for change, one that we prefer to do with the involvement of the people who are going through the change process. I feel that with them knowing and playing a role in the process, it makes all things a lot easier. It also helps to clarify issues and minimize misunderstandings and tension.
What we do in this post is focus on some things to consider in helping your organization roll forward. It is as much about HOW you do things as what those things are, it seems.
People will often appear to resist change because they are actually comfortable with how things are, right now. Getting them to change for no real reason is resisted…
By using the approach of our illustration to generate their active involvement, we help the change process by identifying Square Wheels and the possible Round Wheels. This elegantly serves to increase discomfort with the way things are now and this helps make change more likely since people now have some considered alternatives.
This relates to our simple Change Model, comprised of four factors which may only be somewhat related,
- The current level of discomfort with the way things are now and about how people feel about the environment and how things work
- The attractiveness of the vision of the future and whether they feel like they should invest in it.
- The individual or groups previous success with change — are they personally successful in making changes and improvements or were they recently unsuccessful and thus more reluctant to fail again
- The peer support for making a change occur — are the rest of the people for the change?
By increasing any or all of them, we make change more likely. We work to involve and engage people to help move these possibilities along.
Note that we have written extensively on my simple model for analyzing and managing Roadblocks, which also uses a facilitative engagement process and which PMC offers a simple and effective toolkit for addressing. There are four types of roadblocks, ranging from immovable (escalate those up) to “the ones you’ve heard of that must be true” that one can simply choose to fix. By allowing groups to brainstorm and list roadblocks and then analyze them, the group can decide which to escalate and which to handle.
To some degree, most people are un-empowered, allowing roadblocks that are real or perceived to get in their way. The reality, however, is that they expect things to change while they keep doing things the same way. My belief is that our tools and approach can help managers to remove those things that get in the way (dis-un-empowerment) and generate peer support for change and improvement and the sharing of best practices through improved teamwork.
The problem with performance improvement and dis-un-empowerment is that many people don’t “buy into the program.” Issues of trust and past history often factor into this causing people to feel that things really won’t improve or that their efforts may not be recognized and appreciated.
Many people don’t have a positive experience with attempts to make changes and improvements. And they do NOT get the support of others around them.
Let’s illustrate with a test that might be interesting for you. You could also try it with someone else. Take 2 minutes and consider identifying four or five key points in the following illustration:
Consider the above – what is going on / what is this about. Think of some themes and ideas – maybe 6 of them before reading on…
DO pause here and consider the above…
The name of the cartoon is Trial and Error. And it is about how change and improvements occur. And if you are reading this without considering your reactions to the illustration, stop and please consider.
If you are like most people in our discussion sessions, you will generate a number of ideas about what is wrong and what they should have done and few about what they have done or are doing positively. The actual ratio of negative to positive is greater than 16 : 1 and we’ve tested this worldwide in all sorts of organizational cultures with very similar results.
Some of the common ones include: they aren’t working on the problem, the horse is before the cart, horses won’t push like that, they should see the problem but they don’t, they missed the Square Wheels completely, and they are about to run off and stop working.
Continuous continuous improvement is an ongoing process, is accomplished by trial and error and requires perspective and reflection. But, too often, we are quick to put a “Blame Frame” on things and presume, with our leadership and expertise, that we would not have made such simple errors and omissions.
But horses will push carts when trained and motivated (hang a carrot in front of it!) and a great many potential ideas for improvement will always exist that can be implemented or modified.
As Max DePree elegantly said:
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
If everyone is focused on what people should have or might have done, this feedback to others will be seen as non-supporting and negative. The effort that was taken to try to do things differently would be punished rather than rewarded and, therefore, we make change less likely. This “constructive criticism” is not constructive and will not support continuous continuous improvement.
A team approach generates the pooled, collective knowledge needed to solve real problems as well as provide the synergy and consensus as to where to generate results. Peer pressure can be focused on improvements if we can engage the team in a bit of reflection. Leadership provides the power and support to the implementation — but they must follow through and do something to recognize any improvements.
Quality, for example, is a people thing. A cross-functional team with a few skills, a mission and vision, and a bit of empowerment from management can generate the objectivity, perspective, collective knowledge and support to make real improvements in systems and processes, the root solution to the quality issue. And by getting people involved in the solution, they become equity owners of the process and we do things with them rather than to them.
Improving service quality is often an issue of leadership and recognition. Organizations have a real need to implement change. But the dynamics involved are complicated, and yet simple. You would all agree that motivation comes from people who take pride in results, with pride being a strong natural reinforcer of behavior.
The impact of putting The Blame Frame around less than perfect attempts to improve will stifle improvement. We naturally generate defensiveness or defense instead of change and we punish innovation while we demand improvement. And then we wonder why people do not feel self-actualized and intrinsically motivated. All of us can support improvement of others!
Intrinsic motivation, then, looks like this (in a haiku-type poem):
Most people already have the Round Wheels within their grasp but, because of negative self-talk, constructive criticism, past performance evaluations focused on the negative and other typical work dynamics, we may not recognize them. Getting a test back in school, for example, was an experience of seeing all of our wrong answers highlighted and marked in red.
You can read more about intrinsic motivation, as I have blogged about it extensively. This takes you to a summary page.
This focus on the negative does not work to bring out the positive. Focusing on the negative only brings out more negative!
Performance coaching and personal improvement should address the many positives of the situation, seeing that continuous improvement is continuous. There is a need for objectivity and perspective combined with management support. But because of people’s focus on personal issues, politics and pettiness, many do not get feedback that focuses on the things that could be done to correct and improve our results.
We can’t really focus on developing human capital and achieving highest potential if we treat people in ways that diminish self-esteem and limit opportunities. The only way to achieve high performance is to engage the best energies of the people within the organization. And they already exist — the challenge is to unleash them from within.
So, if we want people to fly, we’ve got to look at what influences their initiative and performance and get them involved and engaged.
We need to allow people to try new things and experiment with the systems and processes. By hooking things up in a new way, we can often generate that creative spark and innovation that will make a long-term fundamental improvement. Consider what you can do to have more fun and generate new ideas for change.
Change is inevitable. So why not make it both easier and fun? Involve and engage people in the changes that they think are needed and see if things do not roll a lot smoother. And remember that caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!
Hope that these ideas help you some,
For the FUN of It!
Scott Simmerman Ph.D. CPF, CPT is still managing partner of PMC, but sort of retired…
Scott is developer of the Square Wheels® images and the board game version of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
Scott has presented his concepts in 47 countries and collaborates with consultants and trainers worldwide.
Also published on Medium.