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Change management needs a SEE-FEEL-CHANGE approach

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From talking to people at the recent Legal Support Networks Business Transformation Conference, it clearly came through that many firms are finding managing change very, very hard.

Change is happening in law and legislation all the time so in some ways, the legal sector should be used to it. But that is not the case. Strong brands have simply disappeared overnight or been swallowed up by bigger firms due to a reluctance to evolve.

Much has been written on the subject of change in the business world, but I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective.

There’s a great study by American professor of consumer behaviour and nutritional science, Brian Wansink that is referenced in the book ‘Switch’ by Dan and Chip Heath, suggesting an atypical approach to change. As part of the study, some un-expecting people in a cinema were given preposterously massive popcorn-filled buckets (so big that it would be impossible for a human being to eat all of it) while others were offered slightly smaller buckets, but still too large to finish. Brian noticed that the individuals with the bigger buckets consistently ate more popcorn than the people with the smaller buckets.

He repeated this experiment with different sets of people, in different geographical locations and observed that there was no single common factor amongst the individuals who ate more except the fact that their bucket was bigger. Conclusion? Bigger container equals more eating.

Now, what on earth is this telling us?

Dan and Chip argue that it could simply be a people problem – i.e. some people like to eat more popcorn than others in the cinema. So, the initial reaction to the data typically would be to encourage people to eat more healthily or show them what happens if they eat less, etc. In reality though, all they need is smaller popcorn buckets!

So, there are two routes to implementing change – try and get people to think differently (very hard) versus make the buckets smaller (quite easy).

Similarly, also mentioned by Dan and Chip in Switch, is another study carried out by John Kotter and Dan Cohen for their book, ‘The Heart of Change’. This study, which John and Dan conducted with assistance from Deloitte Consulting, looked at how successful change happens in organisations. The study concluded that making sure the change being implemented plays to the emotions of the individuals affected as well as their thoughts is essential. They found that most organisations approached change in an ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE way, but what’s really needed is a SEE-FEEL-CHANGE attitude.

So, don’t get drawn into creating a PowerPoint presentation with charts, graphs and easily forgotten bullet points alongside broad strategic quotes from the head honcho – your audience may well agree with you, but it won’t create change.

If you’re trying to implement change in your firm, are you tackling the emotional side of the change or are you simply putting bullet points on slides and hoping the magic will happen?

In short, as Dan and Chip conclude: “Trying to fight inertia and indifference with analytical arguments is like tossing a fire extinguisher to someone who’s drowning.”

Tags: InterAction
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