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Managewich Tips: Tired of Participating in the 80% of Change Initiatives That Fail?

Change is hard… or is it?

Think about a time when change was easy.  What made it easy?

For me, a good example to illustrate how change does and doesn’t work is recycling.

At first, to recycle, we had to separate cans, glass and paper,  and we had to sort through the plastics for the ones that could be recycled.  There was a special, thinner, less sturdy bag that we had to use.  We had to take it to the recycling center ourselves.  I quit somewhere in the middle of the first bag of cans.

Then, the city gave us separate bins for cans, glass and plastic.  This was better, but the bins were too small, and I had to carry them out to the curb.  The open bins attracted flies, and my back started to hurt.  So I quit.

After that, the city provided large bins with wheels.  These were partitioned.  So now, I recycled my plastic, cans and glass, because we could put those all in the same trash can.  Having two trash cans in the kitchen wasn’t so bad.  We ended up tossing a lot of paper… but oh well.

Now, we put all of it in the same recycling trash can and it all goes unsorted into the recycling bin, which the trash fairy (my husband) wheels out to the curb. (No, I’m not delegating out the unpleasant tasks…well OK, maybe I am.)

Ok… so what can we learn about change in your business from this example?

I think all of us can agree that recycling is a good idea.  A good idea alone isn’t good enough to create sustainable change.  What does that say about a mediocre or bad idea?

I wanted to be a better citizen and create less of a carbon footprint.  Wanting to change is a key element.  Do I even have to ask what happens to most change initiatives when no one is on board?

There is an inverse correlation between obstacles and motivation.  The reward becomes not worth the effort.  This is partly why carrot and stick fails so miserably when we’re trying to change behavior at work.  The carrot isn’t big enough, and the stick shuts down the thinking brain (see yesterday’s blog post).  What happens to your change initiative when your reward for making the change is more work?

One answer is to lobby for smarter change.  Change is the only constant, and being adaptable is a success behavior.  That said, examining whether the change is worth undertaking is an important exercise, and it can be scary when the change is coming from on high.  Respectfully approach the leadership and voice concerns in a well thought out (and did I say respectful?) way.  Remember, you don’t want to trigger fight in your leadership.  A what’s in it for them approach is probably your best bet.

Another answer is to get out in front of the change and analyze what the obstacles are going to be and how to mitigate them.  What’s going to make people want to make the change?  What are the rewards going to be?

Change can be easy in the right circumstance.  Leaders rise above the managewich by successfully creating those environments.  More about that in the next post.

Be Your Best You Today,

Carolann Jacobs

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