Why Change is Difficult

As the leader of a business, you are constantly strategizing, setting direction, and pushing for improvements – many of which don’t “stick” or arrive at all. What is completely clear to you, may not have trickled down in the organization to the front line where improvements actually take place. When you need improvements, it is up to you to ensure everybody who plays a part is sufficiently motivated to change the way they work; this requires thoughtful planning, engagement and communication. It is not enough to set targets and align people’s professional goals with hitting those targets. Your people need to understand where they are, where they need to be, why things aren’t good enough and what steps they need to take to get there. Commanding change is simply not a winning strategy.

Why can’t you just set targets? Take a personal example; Is just saying you want to lose 25 pounds and stepping on the scale every day enough to make you change your habits to hit your goal? For some people, perhaps it is, but data alone is not a strategy. If changing were that easy, most of us would be in great shape mentally, physically and financially. We would always eat well, exercise for five hours a week, read rather than watching television, and save enough for our future. However, many of us don’t actually live up to our potential. We lack the motivation from the dissatisfaction and discipline required to overcome our current habits to make all the lasting changes we might hope for, and as we all know, hope is not a strategy.

Organizational Change is difficult because it requires personal buy-in. There is no magic bullet which will get you there, and the combination of individual changes which need to occur are far beyond the scope of your ability to personally communicate. You must set in motion a plan to assure engagement and therefore create trickle down buy-in. Our approach.

Developing a strategy with V x D x KS > R

Vision x Dissatisfaction x Knowledge of Steps > Resistance to Change

Ask yourself several questions:

  • Who needs to change and what do they need to change? Are they motivated to change?

  • Do they understand “what good looks like”?

  • Do they understand where they currently stand? Do they feel this is “good enough”?

  • Do they know what steps they would have to take to close the gap? Are any of these steps too scary to take?

The first question shows you where to focus your efforts because you will identify those individuals who need to change yet are not motivated to do so. The remaining three questions address the drivers of the individual’s motivation or lack thereof.

Keep reminding yourself along the way that if you can create interventions to keep your people focused on the vision, personally dissatisfied with the current state and give them an environment where they feel they can take risks, you will close the gap.

V x D x KS > R is an adaption of Kathie Dannemiller's Change Formula: D x V x F > R where D is Dissatisfaction with the way things are, V is Vision of what is possible, F is First steps which can be taken toward the vision, and R is Resistance. Dannemiller's Change Formula is itself an adaption of  David Gleicher's (Published by Beckhard & Harris) Formula For Change: C = (ABD) > X where C is Change, A is Dissatisfaction with the Status Quo, B is the Understood Desired State, D is Practical Steps towards the Desired State, and X is "Cost" of changing. Link to Beckhard & Harris' book Organizational Transitions: Managing Complex Change (2nd ed 1987)

James Elliott

James Elliott is a Client Partner at Evolve Partners. He has worked in super-major Oil & Gas companies for the last four years helping his clients discover, plan, implement, track and sustain improvements with a facilitative approach designed to build capability and personal ownership.