Here are some recent observations and musings about what it is taking to get people to change these days. These points are based on what I see is lacking in many change efforts and what has worked. 

1. Help your resistant folks understand that change keeps the brain young. Its good for not just the company but for their own survival. The brain grows when it learns difficult things, not easy stuff. Besides there aren’t any places they can go work anymore that won’t expect you to have a digital brain. So get over it, essentially.

2. Teach them survival skills of emotional flexibility, optimism and mental toughness or courage. Trying to change them without teaching them how to change is almost willful abuse. It creates morbid anxiety.

3. Create a clear vision of what the new world will probably look like. Expose people to what the new system looks like and what it can do. One company we worked with had not even demonstrated the new software because it wasn’t customized yet and they didn’t want people to get “wrong ideas.” Show people what you know, tell them it will change and that you’re all learning together.

4. Tell them where you want to be in this new world and ask their help in how to get there. One Midwest hospital was advised that they needed to centralize X-Ray bookings for efficiency but the bookings for a specialized unit in an adjoining wing were so complex that only half the X-Rays were being done. After lots of staff and patient frustration, they were taken off the new system and their old system restored. People hate to be told what to do but will go along if they understand what has to happen and why, and if they felt that they were part of the process. They know their work better than you do. Just ask first.

5. They don’t get that they need to change. They say things like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “We tried that and it didn’t work” or “We’ve always done it this way.”

    a. Play the Put Us Out of Business Game, where competing teams create new companies that can spot your company’s flaws and beat you up with them. That puts it out there and is hard to avoid or deny.

    b. Create something visual and dramatic to demonstrate the urgency for change. One company piled 85 different pipes on a huge table in the employee cafeteria - “This is what we are ordering every week. Every pipe is different and comes from a different manufacturer. But each manufacturer makes all pipes. We would save (millions) every month by orderings from the same manufacturer.”  Another department piled the table high with papers stating this is how much paper we waste every 15 minutes because we won’t use the (software system). One HR director did a time analysis and was shocked at how much time people were spending in wasted (not useful) meetings. She blew up beach balls of different colors, red for creative time, blue for operations-getting-stuff-done-time, yellow for employee coaching time, and green for wasted meeting time. She demonstrated that by removing the green balls, others could be substituted. Finally people could get what was happening and meetings dwindled.

6. Create a Change Leaders Network. Instead of trying for top down compliance, use a networked approach where flourishing forward-thinking (probably millennial) employees are identified as change agents, given special titles, bonuses and opportunities. If you’re worried about the hierarchy, that’s part of your problem. The agents are scattered strategically throughout the company and will create entrainment among the resistant. 

7. Make top management visible and interested. Take employees to a banquet served by the senior team. On a boat, have the senior team at the boarding dock with flowers. Greet them at the door one morning with a Starbucks cart. If you say we don’t have time or budget, that’s part of your issue.

8. Take this quiz. There is no cutoff point and the statements are not standardized. But if you check off more than a couple, I’d pass the quiz around and get going on getting things moving.

  1. We don’t talk about failures or mistakes.
  2. We don’t speak up if something is going wrong, or if we are afraid of looking stupid or not fitting in.
  3. People won’t speak up about processes they know about that slow down change.
  4. We talk about our inside procedures instead of competitive markets, technologies and opportunities.
  5. We shoot down ideas if they pose any threat or even if they offer a huge (but scary) opportunity. 
  6. There is a fair amount of blame and finger pointing, not just among employees but across departments.
  7. We know we’re supposed to break down the silos but never find time to do that.
  8. We rely on outside consultants and somehow they just muddle things up.
  9. Human Resources puts out complex change models that nobody really understands.
  10. We don’t even meet on important matters because we’re always putting out fires.
  11. We use words, not actions.
  12. Meetings end without taking action; rather items are tabled until the next time.  
  13. We use PowerPoint presentations a lot.
  14. Meetings take up a lot of our time. When we are asked if we really need to go to them all, we admit we don’t but we do anyway
Hope these help. Back with more.