How to clear the path for organisational change

change ahead sign

All businesses struggle with change, but according to one expert there’s a simple three-step model that can help SMBs to better facilitate change, for the benefit of customer satisfaction, employee motivation and overall business growth.

I have been studying behaviour change for 18 years. In that time I think the best model for change comes from a psychologist from the University of Virginia called Jonathan Haidt. The model consists of three parts, a rider on an elephant walking along a path. Sounds weird? Let me explain.

The rider is our logic, our rational side.

The elephant is our emotional side.

The path is the environment in which we are changing.

According to Jonathan, to facilitate change you have to do three things:

1.    You must give the rider clear instructions about what change needs to occur. What are the exact behaviours you need them to exhibit? If the rider does not know exactly what they need to do they can wander off all over the place.

2.    You must appeal to the elephant. You have to make it so that the elephant has an emotional desire to go in that direction.

3.    Lastly you have to clear the path. You need to make it easy for the elephant to go there. Ensure that there are no roadblocks.

I have been using this model in my work with companies with amazing results.

Guide the rider

I was with a department of a bank. As a group they came up with a goal to become number one in customer service. While that is a great goal what I pointed out is that there is no clear behaviours attached to that goal. How will people change their behaviour to achieve that goal? Upon reflection they then came up with a clear behaviour. ‘Never pass a customer on, do not transfer them to another department and you must solve their problem on the spot’. Since the introduction of this clear behaviour they have seen a sharp rise in their client satisfaction.

Motivate the elephant

I was working with a manufacturing group who were having problems getting people to stick to safety policy. The problem was that the employees saw safety as unnecessary because they thought they were bullet proof and would never get hurt. In my research on the company I found out that the major accidents people had in the company were due to another person cutting corners. In other words when an individual did not stick to the safety policy they put their co-workers at risk. Then I presented to them and talked about how they would feel if their actions lead to a mate being injured or even killed. How would they feel if they took away their livelihood and left their family struggling to survive. I then had a guy in the group talk about when he did not follow policy, which led to a co-worker being seriously injured.

They went from thinking that not paying attention to safety was a cool/brave thing to do, to thinking about how their actions could hurt their mates. Their elephant was seriously motivated.

Clear the path

A number of years ago I was engaged by a law firm to put in place a work/life balance strategy for the senior associates and lawyers. I presented the strategy to the partners and they were on board. Six months later when we reviewed the project it had had little impact. Why? Well the strategy was simple and they knew the exact behaviours they had to do, so it wasn’t that. The elephant was engaged because they all wanted to see their families more and to reduce their stress. The reason it failed was that the partners penalised them when they exhibited those behaviours. The problem was that the partners put barriers on the path.

From now on when you are trying to change anything in your life or leading others through a change process ensure that you:

1.    Give them crystal clear behaviours.

2.    Engage them on an emotional level

3.    Set up the environment to support the change.

Written by Dr. Adam Fraser, psychologist and author of The Third Space. The Third Space is published by William Heinemann and is available to purchase nationwide from July 1. RRP $29.95. Visit www.thethirdspace.com.au for a full list of stockists and further information on Dr. Adam Fraser and the book. ISBN 9781742753867. Also available as an eBook ISBN 9781742753874

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