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How can I Get People to Change?

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Posted 07 July 2014 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your change management skills.

How can you get people to change?

It is clear that you need to improve the current system you are using at work; and that means that you need people to change what they are doing and adopt the new system.

But the problem is that most people don't like change. So they don't want to adopt your new system. They want to keep the old system; the system that they are used to; the one they know how to operate; the system they feel comfortable with.

They don't like the new system, they are not used to it, they don't know how to work it, and they don't feel very comfortable when they are forced to use the new system.
So they fight the introduction of the new system; even though the new system will be better, in the long run.
So we can sum up the problem like this:

You need people to change: but they don't want to change.

And we can sum up the question to be answered like this:

How can I get people to change?

Here are the steps.

You need to know three fundamental principles about human beings, and apply these principles to the issue of change management.

  1. Most people are motivated by their own self-interest. (They are not motivated by YOUR self-interest).
  2. Most people think most about the short range consequences of their actions. They don't think much about the long range consequences of their actions.
  3. Most people don't like things that are too complex. They like things to be simple.

If you agree with the above statements, then we can derive the following three methods about how to get people to change.

How to get people to change. Method 1

Since most people are motivated by their own self-interest and not motivated by your self-interest, then it is important to:

Sell the idea of change in terms of the benefits it will bring for the person making the change, not for the benefit of everyone else.

If you say, "This change will make life easier for our customers and will increase the profits for the shareholders, but it will make your life more difficult." then don't expect much cooperation to implement the change.

Remember this phrase: People are selfish!
(Meaning: "self-interested").

You need to recognise this fact about your employees.
They do not work for you or for your organisation.

No.

Instead, they work first for themselves and their family. They only use your organisation as a means to an end. They are not working in order to help you. They are at work for the benefit of themselves and their family, first.

So you need to present the change in terms that will appeal to the self-interest of the changer.

  • Do not appeal to his sense of duty.
  • Do not ask him to take one for the team.

Do not ask him to sacrifice his own self-interest for the benefit of the organisation as a whole, or the customers, or the shareholders.
See the change from the changers perspective and make every argument for the change an expression of how this will bring benefits for the changers. Long range benefits.

How to get people to change. Rule 2

Emphasis the long range consequences. De-emphasis the short range consequences.

You need to recognise this fact about people:

Most people think more about the short range consequences of their current actions.
They don't think much about the long range consequences of their actions.

They think about the short range consequences of eating mass quantities of ice cream. They don't think much about the long range consequences of eating mass quantities of ice cream.

They think about the short range consequences of driving at 90 miles per hour. They don't think much about the long range consequences of driving at 90 miles per hour.

In order to make your change programme make sense you must acknowledge that, short term, this change programme will be a pain to the people making the change.
But LONG TERM, the people making the change will see benefits for themselves.
Your task is to focus the attention on the long term consequences of the change.
You will have to acknowledge the short term pain. But your goal is to talk about the long term benefits. Don't get caught up for too long on the short term consequences.
Focus on the long term.

How to get people to change. Rule 3

Make changes small and simple, NOT large and complex.

Remember that most people don't like things that are complex. They like things to be simple.

All changes can be put into two classes of change.

  • Revolutionary change
  • Evolutionary change

Revolutionary change seems to be catastrophic, big bang, painful and costly.
Evolutionary change is smaller, gradual, progressive and not painful.

It is important to present the change program as an evolution, not a revolution.

You need to do all you can to make the big change, look more like a series of small changes.
Make the big bang theory and evolutionary theory.

People don't like big bang revolutions.
It makes them fearful.
Most people would prefer a gradual evolutionary approach.
So break the big change up into a million small evolutionary changes and start implementing the change at "baby step one".
They can accept taking a baby step. They don't want to make a giant leap.

Giant leaps are for Hero's and giants.
Don't ask people to make giant leaps.
Ask them to evolve.

Make a big change feel like a series of small changes.
People don't like revolution. They prefer evolution.

Summary. How can I get people to change?

You need people to change: but they don't want to change.

How can you get people to change?

Here are the steps.

Sell the idea of change in terms of the benefits it will bring for the person making the change, not for the benefit of everyone else. You need to present the change in terms that will appeal to the self-interest of the changers.

  • Do not appeal to his sense of duty.
  • Do not ask him to "take one for the team".

You will have to acknowledge the short term pain. But your goal is to talk about the long term benefits. Don't get caught up for too long on the short term consequences.
Focus on the long term.
Most people would prefer a gradual evolutionary approach to change.
So break the big change up into a million small evolutionary changes and start implementing the change at "baby step one".

Make change programme seem like:

  • A progressive evolution,
  • NOT an aggressive revolution.

Thank you.

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