Turkeys, Christmas and Change

October 05 2018


A former colleague and process improvement specialist who I remember for his colour quips among other things introduced me to a saying that will be with me forever:

Turkeys won’t vote for Christmas

At the time this was in relation to his observation of managers being reluctant to give up control but I think it is a great way of summarising why change is so difficult. People (and Turkeys) generally prefer familiarity to the unknown.

I am comfortable in this seat, I know where everything is, I know how to use everything and I like the view from here.

These are the type of statements that are going through the heads of those who need to be influenced during a process of change so if you are responsible for coordinating, kick starting or driving change in any way you need to embrace it in order to do your job effectively.

There needs to be a compelling reason to change and better still have at least one reason which will be as compelling to them as it is you. This is to enliven self-interest (not yours) in the conversations you are having.

In helping leaders and teams prepare for and deliver change David Rock’s SCARF model ,which describes the things that are likely to surface during conflict, particularly useful:

Status – Protection of position or authority. We can tap into this by deferring to people for their views and asking them for advice in the areas that they have strengths.

Certainty- Knowing what the future holds. This is about providing as much detail as possible at regular intervals. If there is no news, communicate this. Reassuring people (where possible) that their position or the work they do is not jeopardised by change is one of the most important steps you can take.

Autonomy- The freedom to choose. Inclusion of staff in parts of the decision making process for the roll out of change e.g. how, when, where, to whom and in what order is should always be considered. Two less-than-great choices is better than not having one.

Relatedness- Connection/likeness to others. If I think that you are like me in some way then I am likely to want to listen to you. This is confirmation bias in full swing. We should always be aiming to understand and appreciate people’s interests in and outside of work as well as the emotions that they are likely to encounter as a way of developing mutual respect and trust and this especially true during times of change although it is recommended that this is established well before you embark on a change process or else it could have the opposite of the desired effect!

Fairness- Treatment relative to others. This is an easy one to screw up. Consistency of message (both to whom, when and what is said and promised), being open about the decision making process (e.g. if this concerns creation of new jobs then how candidates will be selected) and providing forums for two way discussions all play an important part in ensuring fairness.

What steps do you put in place be a change champion and not a change turkey?

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