Friday, March 22, 2013

Change is a result of Action as a Function of Desire (C = D(A))

Viewing many articles on the successful implementation of change or improvement you hear generally the same lament; management doesn’t provide change agents the needed resources or support. People in the workplace don’t want change, put up roadblocks to change, etc. To me, it is a distillation of a basic math equation: The amount change is affected by the desire to change as it relates to change activities.  What does this gobbledygook mean?  Let me provide an example.
My son and I were discussing his current progress in school. A couple of classes he mentioned he had not done to well but his retort was, “I will do better! I will try harder!”  I said that was great but what was your plan, what were you going to change in order to get better grades?  I immediately got the “deer in the headlights look” and the response, I am going to try harder! Things digressed significantly from there based on his frustration from not understanding what I wanted and not be satisfied with the tried and true response that would move the conversation on to another topic. Do you think my son’s performance is going to change if his efforts have not been successful and he is just going to do more of the same?  Anyone heard of Einstein’s vision of insanity? There appears to be a strong desire for change but no plan of action.  The likelihood that grades will change is slim.
Let’s take another example.  It’s a good bet that people are not happy with the current health care system.  The current Administration put forth and based a wide and sweeping plan to change health care as we know it (euphemistically called “Obamacare).  There is a good amount of consternation with this plan. The idea is for the entire country to execute the plan.  Yet, the following AP newswire story suggests something entirely different. In this case, we have a plan and not a consistent desire to change.  Results should be forthcoming.
Evolutionary change comes from a high desire to change and a dedicated plan that is executed with discipline. Current change curriculum concentrates more on the developing and executing the action side of the equation and rarely, if ever, addresses the desire portion. Yet, without both, we do not see change or change is not sustainable.  So, how do we increase the desire?  Often there is negative reinforcement (circumstances dictating a “life or death” choice) or the reward will be so great that it would be stupid not to change.
As change agents I challenge you to include as part of your change efforts some reflection time on ensuring that the necessary desire to change exists.  There are some tools out there to account for desire (stakeholder analysis, WIIFM (What’s in it for Me) analysis) but it is going to require more planning time to ensure success. What’s in it for you? Hopefully, a relief from the frustration of another “less than promising result” from you next change effort.
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