Cracking the Code of Change

By Ann
June 18, 2010
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Change can be uncomfortable. People resist changing their behavior to meet a challenging situation even when change is beneficial to them.

In November 2004 IBM sponsored the "Global Innovation Outlook" conference in New York.  They invited visionary thinkers from all over the world to assemble and propose solutions to some of the world's biggest problems.  In Fast Company (May 2005) "Change or Die" Alan Deutschman says, "...the health care industry consumes an astonishing $1.8 trillion a year in the United States alone, or 15% of gross domestic product."

The root of the problem hasn't changed for decades.  Dr. "Ray" Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, told the audience, "A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral." The five behaviors issues that consume 80% of our health care dollars are "too much smoking, drinking, eating, and stress and not enough exercise."

Changing behavior of people is the single biggest challenges of all businesses trying to compete in a turbulent global environment according to John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor.  Deutschman quotes Kotter, "The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems.  The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people."

If your business and the people working in it are reluctant to change, you could be seeing some of these symptoms:

  • Opportunities disappear
  • Teamwork suffers
  • Profits lag
  • Inefficiencies fester
  • Customers leave
  • Morale declines
  • Tension and stress increase


Some of the reasons people are resistant to changing their behavior are these.  Do you recognize them?

  • They are afraid they will fail and make mistakes
  • They experience a period of uncertainty and discomfort
  • They cannot clearly see the path to the end result
  • They see no personal benefit in making the change
  • They will be required to learn new skills
  • They are uninspired
  • They will lose an old, familiar way of thinking or doing

It makes good business sense to engage people at an emotional level.
It's not just a nice thing to do.  Kotter says, "Behavior change happens mostly
by speaking to people's feelings.  This is true even in organizations that are
very focused on analysis and qualitative measurement, even among people
who think of themselves as smart in an MBA sense.  In highly successful
change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions
in ways that influence emotions, not just thought."

The solution to implementing change includes these elements:

Paint a clear, emotional picture to describe your vision, problem or solution

Invite people in your business to contribute to creating a shared vision

Give your people opportunities to devise the plans to achieve company goals

Expect them to accept responsibility for accomplishing company goals

Provide support, resources and encouragement

Communicate clearly and often the state of the company

Hire the right people and put them in the right roles

Lead, guide and train them to be able to function well in their roles

"Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems."  Good to Great by Jim Collins.

"When you know you need to make a people change, act."
Good to Great by Jim Collins

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the mantra of status quo, describes the attitude of a rigid, intransigent organization.  Is your organization spending resources to keep change at bay?

A lithe, limber organization that looks for ways to improve the way they do business day in and day out is in a better position to respond to a surprise or catastrophic situation that forces them to change or die.  What is your attitude about change?

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