A Model for Change and Improvement

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This model describes a process that helps make improvement more likely. Change is a function of four factors that work together. Increasing any or all of these engages people to make change more likely:

If you make people less comfortable, you will generate some behavior. Consider, for example, making the room hotter. People will shed some clothing, fan themselves, change their posture or some such thing, which would not have occurred if there were no temperature shift. Or, make it cold and get a different set of behaviors.

This is not about creating pain; it’s about decreasing comfort with the way things are. As discomfort increases, we become more likely to change. If we are very comfortable with the way things are, we are not likely to support change. The challenge is to create or increase the gap between goals and perceptions of current status.

We do this by helping people identify things as Square Wheels, knowing that there are Round Wheels that are available. If something is labeled a Square Wheel, we create something called cognitive dissonance (Leon Festinger in the 1960’s)

To increase the probability of change, paint a more attractive picture of the way things can be once the change is accomplished. Attractive visions increase the drive toward making the change possible.

If people can create a vision that is attractive, they are more likely to find that engaging and will put their energies toward that desired outcome.

Without a vision, we don’t generate directed energies. Thus, it is hard to accomplish much. If people know where they are going, they are more likely to work to attain it, thus making change more likely.

Change generally occurs with a positive base of support and in connection with feedback and rewards. At the core of this is an individual’s personal history based on accomplishment and recognition. Recent past successes increase the possibility of future change. For most people, the more we succeed, the more we try to succeed. Success breeds success!

Conversely, a person who thinks that they have recently failed may become less motivated to try again, although some people will also be motivated to try again even after failure.

Managers can generally recognize the positive aspects of any endeavor and create a sense of success. Note that this is different than an approach of using constructive criticism, which often reinforces the negative aspects of performance. In my lexicon, this represents an organizational oxymoron (others include airline food, sanitary landfill, Microsoft Works, customer focus and inderdepartmental collaboration).

Each of us has the ability to control our remembered histories. We can minimize the negatives in our past and can embellish or enhance the positives, making them even more positive. Many of us can benefit by stepping away from our memories and looking at them from a more distant (and often more positive) perspective. For most of us, our negative experiences may not have been that negative and our positive ones might have been even better than we remembered. Get control of your thinking!

Peer support for change moves all of us(forward or backward).

When people around us are actively supporting our improvement effort, the momentum will improve measurably. We can feel the positive energies pushing us forward. Conversely, peer pressure can be a powerful energy impeding progress and change.

Most of us will actively resist being pushed and will push back almost without thinking about it.

I believe that a very common situation exists in most workplace situations:

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car!

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

People cannot be expected to take care of things when they do not feel some sense of ownership. We encourage people to get involved in problem identification and solution generation and then play an active role in trying to implement the changes.

In summary, our model of change involves four factors, each of which can be addressed in the typical workplace:

Guess if you think about this model of change, you’ll see how it is really about why teams are more successful than committees and individuals. It is about change and choice, about people in situations.

Surround yourself with people who will support your changes, not with the ones who will give you roadblocks and negatives. Make some positive choices yourself!

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