The science of change management

  Until  recently, there wasn’t really any reason to think about a distinction between a craft view of change and a scientific model of change. Change management had for so long consisted of a set of conventional “craft” wisdoms that few questioned the approach, even if the accepted wisdoms were minimally effective. Now, recent advances in four areas of research and the emergence of a new technology are changing this perspective. By combining work on positive deviance, fair process, neuroscience and mass customization into a single change model, and delivering change guidance through persuasive technology, it is possible to ensure that 98% of personnel in an organization embrace a change initiative. Here is the model that has evolved from the science: Set-the-Bar In order to manage change effectively, the organization has to develop a compelling image of the desired end result of the change. Research on positive deviance tells us that the people who consistently and systematically outperform others (the organization’s “positive deviants”): • Always have these compelling images • Are easily identified • Exist in all job categories in all organizations • Can be interviewed using simple, reliable techniques that gather their “wisdom” quickly and effectively The science on positive deviant is extremely consistent. By leveraging their positive deviants, all organizations can always, and easily develop the powerful images required to drive change. Motivate Change People must be motivated to change. The science of fair process and the neuroscience of positive visualization make motivation highly predictable too. More specifically, by presenting the positive deviant’s powerful images of success in a way that generates a sense of respect and dignity in the organization (fair process), people tend to embrace the change. In fact, they feel deeply honored that the organization so completely believes in their ability. In turn, when people visualize themselves as functioning at the same levels of positive deviants, neuroscience research has shown that there is a release of neurotransmitters that drive a consistent increase in their willingness and ability to learn something new. Motivation, once more of an art form than a predictable process, is now highly predictable. By creating the right conditions, almost all participants show significantly increased motivation. Sustain Change The craft of change management is particularly ineffective at sustaining a performance improvement. Because so much of craft change management is about personal relationships, when the person is no longer present, change efforts consistently falter. In contrast, the neuroscience principle of “neurons that fire together wire together” and the emergence of persuasive technology provide capabilities that consistently and systematically sustain a change effort. The key to getting neurons to permanently wire together in support of a new business capability is intensive, repetitive practice. The positive deviants tell us the nature and frequency of this practice. Persuasive technology ensures that people actually practice. Persuasive technology, which is defined as technology that ”changes what people believe and do,” is specifically designed to provide people with the prompts and support required to achieve the levels of practice required for complete internalization of a change. Features like weekly prompts, continuous status reporting to management and other standard features in persuasive technology drive participants to practice enough to achieve the positive deviant level of performance. Thus, sustainability of a change is now grounded in science and technology and is completely predictable. Scaling Change The craft of change management problems with sustainability become significantly more acute when hundreds or thousands of people must change to improve performance. How can a crafts person possibly touch these large numbers since change is all due to the individual contact? Here too recent scientific advances solve the scaling problem. In particular, the integration of the principles of mass customization into persuasive technology provides a scientific methodology for touching many more people, more efficiently than previously thought possible. Mass customization is an organizing system that enables a central organization to mass produce the energy and materials for a change, while treating each person uniquely, thereby increasing personal motivation. When embedded in persuasive technology, mass customization guides large numbers of users to consistently and systematically embrace the positive deviant images of extraordinary performance. Comfort with the Craft If the science of change management is so advanced, why are so few companies using it? The obvious answer is that the people responsible for change management either don’t know about the scientific advances or are themselves practitioners of the craft and are hesitant to acknowledge that their methods are no longereffective. In either case, organizations are put at competitive risk because they are not keeping up with some of the capabilities others are beginning to use.]]>

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