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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Has Change Become Too Robotic?



We spend so much time and money trying to make machines more human.  Yet, we spend an equal amount of time trying to make humans more like machines.  If you leave the human element out of change initiatives, you will usually have a lower success rate. 

In business, there is a belief that if you tell people they have to change
it will happen, as though they are machines. There is also the belief that if you provide incentives they will be persuaded to ‘just do it’. Yet, companies and civilizations struggle to transform the way they think and act, unless a catastrophic event occurs that forces people to behave differently.  When the catastrophe is no longer present, people generally go back to old behaviors.

To remedy that, corporations spend millions of dollars teaching new skills and competencies as well as product knowledge. With that tactic, you can have lazy or unmotivated people who possess better skills and knowledge. And transformation still lags.   

The dilemma this strategy creates is an expectation that people will make the leap on their own.  It does not include the fact that people have their own perspectives of change, disruption, management and themselves.  When people have to develop new perspectives, it can be chaotic. In some cases, a person’s perspective could go against the organization regardless of incentives and rewards.  In other cases, they may possess the greatest skills and product knowledge. And their perspective of the company’s values is negative. If you do not address the perspective of each person, you will often see people struggle when they are placed in bigger positions that require new thinking, behaviors, skills and competencies.

To make matters worse, for decades, proponents of transformation have advocated dissemination of information with the hope that better-informed employees will transform. That is analogous to providing a child with an informative book on how to ride a bike. When the child gets on the bike, they still fall. Ask employees to transform the way the think and act can appear just as dangerous as getting on a bicycle for the first time. How do you think differently if you have thought the same way about yourself and the world your entire life? 

Therefore, if people do not go through some kind of formal training where they can develop new perspectives, it will take longer for them become effective in the job change. The training would be analogous to the training of an athlete. For example, Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. In the beginning, he underperformed. As he mastered the new swing, he became champion again.

Tiger Woods is an example of someone who can transform in his profession without a catastrophe. Instead of waiting for a catastrophic event or imposing fire drills to orchestrate change, incorporate a method that has the same impact without the negative side effects. For many people, a simulated disruption can be done in a safe environment. Furthermore, people have to be provided with tools to manage themselves with new behaviors and attitudes. While it is not an overnight process, a highly skilled professional that is a product of the method they employ can be an empowering catalyst for transformation. That touch alone can remove the robotic expectations of change and include the human element. 

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know. 













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