A Spoonful of Sugar

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about resistance to change. The RogersAdoption / Innovation curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards) is referenced in some form by most people involved in change management.

Now, I’m not an innovator myself. My special form of creativity doesn’t manifest itself by coming up with new ideas that no one else has thought of, or completely new ways to do things. I’d tag myself as being in theearly adopter or maybe early majority categories most of the time.

So it can be a stretch for me to work with the late majority or laggards. “Don’t you know this will be good for you?” I ask incredulously. “Can’t you see all the benefits and advantages that you will have once you’ve made this change?” I confess that I get very impatient sometimes.

Fortunately I have great team members that a) calm me down and prevent me from sending career-limiting emails, and b) remind me that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Or, as the movie musical “Mary Poppins” character sings, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

(Of course, as she’s singing that, she’s snapping her fingers and making the children’s clothes go back into the drawers without any effort on anyone’s part.)

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But in the real world, it’s good to ask ourselves what’s in it for the stakeholders, and try to see what would make the change more palatable. The trick is, it has to been seen as a value-added return even before the gains are realized. For example, a promise that the work will be easier might not be believed, even if you know it will be true.

Have you found a good way to engage stakeholders who might need a little extra encouragement to buy into a change plan? It would be most helpful if you would share your experiences!

Comments 7

  1. thanastump

    Approach it as a LSS project in that your first step is to identify your customers and gather VOC. Using this approach to build a shared vision of success is paramount, soliciting and incorporating feedback at each turn from each crtiical stakeholder group.

    This results in the practicioner being able to use objective data, suggested and validated by the critical decision makers, to socratically lead them to a solution that is both high in quality and support.

    It is always a tradeoff between "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" and if you don’t first answer "what’s in it for me?" you won’t get acceptance on any product offering.

  2. Steven Wieneke

    One of the insights I have found useful in implementing change is the resistance to change is not to the change itself. The resistance is avoiding the self-induced stress of the perceived "loss of control" of the unknowns resulting from the change. Eliminate as many of the unknowns as possible and the resistance will diminish. There are several techniques that can be used to effectively "eliminate the unknowns" for the stakeholders. I also use a quantitative method to “measure”, amongst other preferences, the “change readiness” of individuals, teams, groups and organizations. A strategy for the specific change can be tailored to address the stakeholder’s preferences to improve the likelihood of successfully implementing the change. Another benefit, as the stakeholders become aware of and appreciate each other’s preferences, they work more effectively with each other.

  3. John Harris

    I have found that resistance in the healthcare related environment often relates to funding. The more a change costs, regardless of the benefits, is often the first item in most of my administrators minds. That being said, when I develop a change idea or plan the first thing I develop after planning the project is a cost analysis; how much is this going to cost, what will it save us, and how long until this savings will be felt.

    This was learned in a very simple way, and one I am almost embarrassed to admit to not seeing initially. We are WOEFULLY understaffed in our Data department. All numbers show that we will never catch up on the backlog I inherited with current staffing levels. Productivity numbers have us operating between 89 and 116% so there is not much more tweaking with the methodology that can be done. The CRT always leads to lack of staff and senior management support.

    I initially asked for the number of staff I needed according to the planning numbers, which is 3 additional staff. Did not fly. I have been fighting them on it for a year, so when the opportunity to attack this in another way arose I changed tactics.

    We have one staff member, who is a .8 FTE, retiring in January, and another re-entering school and will be going back to part time, so losing a .5 FTE. Since these are Level One positions we don’t necessarily have to replace them, because it is Level Two’s that I need. When I started planning for their replacements, instead of asking for a .8 and a .5 Level One, I asked for one Level Two. The argument was that I would be replacing 1.3 FTE’s with 1.0 FTE and even with the salary difference it would save us $4.00 per hour.

    Flew through committee without a hitch.

    So the short end of a long story is that, at least in my case, attaching the cost savings to the proposal was the ticket, no matter what the work benefit was going to be. So when trying to change procedures I now attach the immediate cost savings (or freeing up staff time as it relates to hourly wage).

  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks all, for your insightful comments. Steven points out that it’s not fear of change, but "loss of control" issues that can be at the root cause of resistance. As thanastump reminds us, a shared vision can go a long way towards getting a team aligned to a common purpose. John tells a great story about tying the "value-added" impact to any change proposal (whether it’s financial savings or other benefits that will be expected). And Cynthia has a good process for using the process owners’ own goals to be the "carrot" in her change plan.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone!
    Sue K.

  5. Cynthia

    I ask my business/process owners what their MBOs are and typically build my funnel around those. Easy to gain buy-in to change when you will ultimately make them look good.

  6. ofcourse

    The Inventory of Work Attitude and Motivation (iWAM) and the Language and Behaviour (LAB) Profile are a couple of tools that uncover a person’s motivational triggers and hence their behaviours. These triggers can be identified by the language a person uses and can be discovered through completing a profile (iWAM) or through a conversational interview (LAB Profile).
    When it comes to change, or anything for that matter, there a number of patterns that we "run", often unconsciously, that will drive our behaviour. When we catch ourself asking "how could they be like that?" it may be time to look at and understand what patterns the other person (and ourself) are running. Resistance to change doesn’t breakdown with a spoon full of sugar, but certainly can be understood and counteracted with a spoon full of iWAM or LAB Profile. I’d be delighted to talk more about these tools and how they can be extrememly useful in the BB context.

  7. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Brad – the ability to be self-aware, as a first step to understanding others, is a key success factor when working in teams. Whether we utilize the Meyers-Briggs or DISC assessments, ot the iWAM or LAB Profile, or any other assessment, it pays to look inward so we can have a better understanding of how our own perceptions can influence our ability to make good decisions or judgements. Thanks for your offer of assistance.
    Sue K.

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