Changing How We Address Change

For Your Interest – May 2014


Hi,  there ~

Have you ever noticed how the same thing can mean such different things to different people?

Take "70%," for instance. Some of you may look at that and think …70% – that’s the amount of water that covers the earth's surface. Or 70% – that’s how much cocoa is needed to make dark chocolate, oh-so, delicious and, oh-so, good for you, too! 

Well, when I see 70%, I think something different still. I think ... 70% – that’s probability that any organizational change effort ... will fail! Yes, it’s true – 70% of all organizational change efforts fail. It’s a staggering statistic, and one that's remained largely unchanged since they started measuring such things back in the 1990's. (Kotter, et. al.) 

Why So Many Change Efforts Fail

Well if 70% is the BAD news, which it mostly is, is there any good news?!  Yes. The good news is that if you can increase your probability of success with organizational change – even just a little bit – you’ll be better helping yourself, the people you work with, the organizations you work in, and the customers and clients you serve, in increasingly meaningful ways. 

I want to use this month's newsletter to explore some ways you might do that. But first, let me highlight some of the reasons why that 70% failure rate is as high as it is in hopes of helping you avoid some of their potholes. Here are 8 to get things rolling:
  1. Change is complicated – it's rarely a straight line between start and finish; and just because a project is 90% done, it doesn't mean that there still isn't at least 50% of the really hard work left to do for it.
  2. People in charge of change often believe that simply asserting a BIWI ("bee-wee") – Because I Want It – is a compelling enough justification for busy people to stop what they're working on and work on your something else, instead. But it rarely is.
  3. Bosses, and the people in charge of change, say and do all sorts of other dumb and counterproductive things. 
  4. As if not to be outdone, followers say and do as many, if not more dumb and counterproductive things, too.
  5. All those dumb and counterproductive things cause others to react poorly, activating (and exacerbating) people's fight/flight instincts and making difficult situations even more messy and complicated. 
  6. The conflict that ensues from people's Hot Buttons being triggered like that causes additional, more immediate, problems that shift everyone's attention away from whatever change initiative they WERE working on to this new messy mess.
  7. People are already pretty stressed and strained and this 'one more thing' called change often results in a collective loss of focus on their 'regular' work – which all-too-easily creates some 'crisis du jour' that further shifts everyone's attention away from whatever they WERE working, to this newer, and more urgent, messy mess. (Sensing a pattern?!)
  8. People are just busy...crazy busy...and have too little time to do what they have to do, let alone that and whatever new change you're asking from them.
If that's not enough, change management expert, John Kotter, has identified 8 similar (but different) reasons why change efforts fail:
  1. allowing too much complacency
  2. failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
  3. underestimating the power of vision
  4. under-communicating the vision
  5. permitting obstacles to block the vision
  6. failing to create short term wins
  7. declaring victory too soon
  8. neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture

How to Change Our Change 'Default' Settings

As with so many things, thinking – and doing – more consciously and purposefully provides a path. Here are a few ideas to get you moving in that direction:

1. Keep Proper Perspective.

If there's only one thing you get from this month's newsletter, let it be this: Regardless of whatever you hope to achieve by virtue of your change effort, your #1 job as a change agent is to reduce the stress and strain of the people involved in, or affected by, that change. Look at it this way: 'stress' is the nature of things going on around you; 'strain' is the impact that stress can have. You may, or may not, be able to lessen the inherent 'stressfulness' of a situation, but you can certainly help lessen the strain that comes from it. 

How? By helping people (remember that you're a people, too!) increase their hardiness and resilience, a topic I cover in my website (see prior link) and in my March 2014 newsletter

2. Become More Conflict Competent.

Because so much rides on what happens when conflict sets in, your increasing your conflict competency is in everyone's best interest.To that end, I offer the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) assessment, which helps identify: 
  1. How capable you currently are (and can become) at utilizing the specific behaviors known to make conflicts more productive – these are called CONSTRUCTIVE behaviors and there are 7 of them.
  2. How capable you currently are (and can become) at AVOIDING the use of the specific behaviors know to make conflicts worse – these are called DESTRUCTIVE behaviors and there are 8 of them.
  3. How aware you currently are (and can become) of what TRIGGERS you (and how you trigger others) into conflict, real or perceived – these are called HOT BUTTONS and there are several, specific, ways to better manage them before, and after, they are pushed.
The CDP assessment, which many find to be surprisingly powerful and helpful, includes a personalized, 1-on-1, debriefing of your results report so you can make the most sense of, and best use of, its findings. (It's worth noting that the CDP is a behavioral tool, not a personality assessment. And since behaviors can be learned, that means that anyone who WANTS to become more conflict competent, CAN become more conflict competent. You just have to think of the CDP competencies as instructions. Because, really, they are!)

3. Tap into People's Deeper Motivations.

People love to follow a leader they love to follow. Sure, that sounds a bit circular, but that's how things work -- you go to a local restaurant, like what you eat, and it soon becomes a favorite place of yours; you read a book, like what the author has written, and pick up another title by the same person; it happens even more regularly with music. Similarly, when you lead in a way that helps people achieve what they want, they'll look to you as their leader the next time they want to achieve something meaningful. And you can dramatically increase the odds of them WANTING to follow your lead if you know what tends to motivate them, when.

It's said there we are all motivated by six things:
  1. Certainty – The more we can avoid pain, feel safe, and know what's coming next, the better.
  2. Uncertainty – The problem with certainty is that too much of it bores us. The antidote? Mixing things up a bit. Variety. Change. 
  3. Significance – We all want to feel unique, special, and important, and know that what we do, and what we are doing, actually matters and has an impact.
  4. Connection – My coach loves to tell me, "Nothing ever happens without someone else." Indeed, it is only through our relationship with others that our true self can be realized. We may privately think new thoughts, and plan new plans, but it is only when we share them with others – in any of a variety of ways – that they become more than just passive musings. 
  5. Growth – Becoming an improved version of who we already are is a goal that, to a greater or lesser, degree, we all strive for.
  6. Contribution – That we feel we are truly a part of a process – and a solution – matters. It matters greatly.
Obviously, people differ in which needs matter most to them and in what ways they seek to get their primary needs met. But the bigger point is this: The more you understand what naturally motivates the people you work with, the more you can articulate your messages to them in increasingly relevant, resonant, and motivating ways.

Now I'm almost done, here, but let me suggest that when I am, you stop and consider, for each of the people you work with, which needs matter most to them, and how they typically strive, on any given day, to get those needs met. You might also want to consider which needs matter most to YOU, and how YOU strive, on any given day, to get YOUR needs met. Take it from me, this can be a bit of an eye-opening exercise. 

Change is More Fleeting than Constant 

One last '70%' for you ... 70% – that’s how much of what you’ll learn today you’ll likely already have forgotten by tomorrow! 

That means that if you want to actually remember something you found helpful in this newsletter, or elsewhere, today, you’re going to have to make a specific point of remembering it. So write it down, talk about it, think about – do whatever you do to integrate new things into what you already know – because whenever you're able to remember something at the precise moment it is most helpful to remember it, you end up helping yourself, the people you work with, the organizations your work in, and the customers and clients you serve, in increasingly meaningful ways.

And that's a very nice change to be a part of.


Don't forget to visit my blog at to see the new posts I've added recently. Maybe one of them will inspire you to greater things before you get my next newsletter. Here's wishing you a fabulous month!

- bz
Barry Zweibel | 847-291-9735
LeadershipTraction® |

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