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Archive for the ‘Change Management’ Category

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Uploaded by Kevin Steele

If you ever do strategy or planning sessions, here’s something you always run into.  If I ask something like, “on average, how long does it take new salespeople to get up to speed?”  Some people will think through their experience, maybe even look at some data and give it their best shot.

Others will answer, “it depends.”  They will come up with all sorts of variables that make it impossible to even take an educated guess.  In fact, they will refuse to take a wild guess. 

When this happens, I’m always reminded by the joke they told during the Clinton/Dole election.  Clinton had been asked by MTV about whether he wore boxers or briefs.  The joke was they asked Bob Dole if he wore boxes or brief…he replied…Depends.

Anyway, the depends answer is what I call in the box thinking.  In some way, people are either resistant to answering with their best guess or they are simply paralyzed by all the possible answers. 

I hear a lot in the education world about how every student is unique and different and every teacher is unique and different so you really can’t do anything that tries to reduce that variability or learn from best practices.  In many cases, this resistance is a resistance to change…so the status quo continues. 

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Uploaded by :: SL Emerick

 Most of formal education is still focused on knowledge acquisition.  But there really has been a dramatic change in the last 50 to 100  years which makes this less important.  First, there’s been an explosion in knowledge.  You can know something about most things but it’s difficult to know a lot about everything.  Take the example of medicine.  There is now so much to know that a generalist has to turn patients over a specialist because they don’t know enough to treat you and often times diagnose you.

How about music.  I remember when most people knew all the popular tunes.  There just weren ‘t that many.  Now there are almost as many types of music as their were songs.  “Name that tune” is a lot harder than it used to be.  This goes on subject after subject, topic by topic. 

Take the champions on Jeopardy.  All you have to do to throw them off is give a lot of questions about popular culture or things out of their generation.  You could also take something like history and ask questions from out this country such as Nigerian leaders of the 20th century. 

Second in the past, this information wasn’t readily available so if you didn’t learn it, you were out of luck.  Now on almost any topic, you have instant access to information.  The emphasis switches from knowing to being able to find.  So what this suggests is a different paradigm in education.

I know in the corporate world this is a shift from knowing to doing.  As your boss, I really don’t care what you know, I care about what you can do.  If there isn’t an application of knowledge, it has very little value in this setting.

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Recently I had an opportunity to lead a number of process improvement sessions.  One of the things that’s challenging is that it’s really a divergent/convergent process.  By divergent I’m mean that early on the discussion is expansive with a lot of options.  Later on as decisions are made the process is convergent leading to closure. 

As a facilitator, it’s important to allow the early chaos to happen because that’s part of the creative process.  I continuously remind everyone that this is a normal part of the process and everything will come into focus as we go along.  A lot of people are uncomfortable with this messy state of affairs and try too soon to organize things or cut off discussion.  You just have to push back and tell people to be patient.  I use parking lots to help record all those ideas that we won’t be dealing with in order to keep some focus to the discussion.

I also let people know when we are shifting gears and going into the decison making phase.  That’s the point were judgements are appropriate and necessary.  I find that when I train others on this type of faciliation that they have to see this happen at least once to fully appreciate what really happens.

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I heard a speech by Dr. Mitch Kuzy last year.  He made a very interesting point about change.  He said that when you decide to make a change you go through a decision making process often takes a long time.  If that change requires other people to accept the change, you are faced with one major problem.  They haven’t gone through the process of deciding to change yet.  They may be weeks, months or even years behind your thinking process.

It’s really this statement, “I see the problem, we have to change know, and here’s the way we need to do it.”  The response, “what are you talking about, I haven’t even thought about this yet and you want me to change.”  Sound familiar.

One really big example of this point is when you hear political leaders talk about climate change with the statement, “the discussion is over, now is the time to act.”  The natural response is, “what discussion, did I miss it. ”  If you want to get others to go along, you really need to step back and open the discussion and let others participate.  This is even if you know the eventual outcome.  It’s part of helping others change.  I know it’s frustrating but without it nothing really changes.

I think this goes along with something I read in win/win negotiating.  If people don’t think they got a fair deal, they will find a way to renegotiate one way or another.  So if you push a change or idea on others, they will find a way around it.  It’s one way you get unintended consequences. 

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I work with a lot of companies that have a problem of having many new hires not really ready to work.  They lack basic work skills including things as basic as how to dress for work. 

 The solution lies in the community colleges.  Many of them have work readiness programs designed for just this problem.  In fact, companies will often send new hires to these classes before their first day of work. 

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Science is good at a lot of things.  Predictions aren’t one of them.  It’s still hard to pick a winning horse at the track.  But this is just my observation so I did a little homework.  Here’s an interesting article about the quality of scientific predictions.  Try not to get caught up on what the prediction is about.  That’s not the point.  It’s about the ability to predict.  Also I’m not talking about the ability to predict what happens when you mix two chemicals.  I’m talking about predicting what will happen in a complex system like real life.

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I found this statement to be very interesting:

“Behaviorists seem to believe that people learn only when it’s worth their while. Humanists seem to believe everyone wants to learn. But learning is a form of personal change, and that can be resisted as often as it is embraced.” James Atherton

Take something like learning speed reading.  It would seem that there is a big personal benefit to learning to read faster.  And if you really wanted to learn, what a great tool this would be.  Instead of reading a dozen books in the same time you could read hundreds.

So why the resistance?  It’s a big change.  It changes the way you can take in information and puts on the pressure of once you’ve read all those books, now what are you going to do?  I’ve heard that reading slowly is pleasurable.  So what am I giving up? 

 I’ve written about this several times before about how beliefs can get in the way of learning something new.  So without dealing with the change issue, teaching can be very challenging even with a good rewards system.

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