Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Resistance to change....ain't no such thing!

One of the most frequent questions that seems to crop up when we're working with leaders and facilitators is: 'What can I do to overcome resistance to change?'

Try doing a search on the internet or browse the bookshelves for help in this area and you will be confronted by dozens of models describing the emotional roller-coaster that change creates along with strategies for overcoming 'resistance' to it.

But how's this for a first response to the question of resistance to change....the isn't any such thing. Think about it for a moment. You would be the first to admit that in the past you have been slow on the uptake, need to be convinced or even prefer other choices when it comes to change but you would hardly describe yourself as 'resistant'. The first problem with this line of thinking is that it somehow categorises all these thoughts about change as wrong.

The second challenge to the notion of 'resistance to change' is that both words are nominalisations i'e' they are both nouns that have been converted from the verbs 'resist' and 'change' and therefore don't exist. All you're left with is behaviour which may be helping or hindering your team or organisation.

So here's what you could do:

1) Dont' make a big thing of it. The more you involve the people concerned, the less of an issue this will become.

And for those who would rather take more of an active approach...

2) Confront it - covertly. Use a 'force field analysis' with the group or individual who seem to be 'resisting' - and get them to come up with resistance to change as a hindering factor. Have them brainstorm strategies for influencing those other people (not them of course!) to move past, get over or work around this. And miraculously they might become "us" rather than "them".

3) Confront it - overtly. Be the honest broker and use the "I'm noticing that...." type intervention. Use a process for getting their real fears out on the table - anonymously if necessary (e.g. they can use post-its or write concerns on cards which others read out and then discuss how to address these). It's important to remember that unhelpful behaviours can have a number of underlying causes such as lack of trust, concerns about the consequences, fear of failure or are even simply defence mechanisms caused by stress.

4) Translate it. It may be that they don't yet have a compelling enough vision of what it's going to be like in the future. What would help is doing more work on helping them translate the vision or desired future into real things that have meaning for them and have them create a list of 'What's In It For Me'. If the future looks really, really positive, we can tolerate some things that we don't like about the journey there.

...resistance to change....there ain't no such thing!

Trevor Durnford

Friday, 13 March 2009

5 Tips On Facilitating Through Video Conferencing Technology

I had the pleasure of facilitating my first focus group using video conferencing this week. The client is a global pharmaceuticals company and whilst I was based in the UK, the participants were sitting together in the USA. Here's some lessons that I'll remind myself of for next time:

Talking to yourself is not a sign of madness you know!
It was important for me to feel what it was like talking to a TV with no/one else in the room because, in effect, that's what I was going to be doing for duration of the 2 hour session. Spending time doing this before the participants arrived was invaluable - even though the person that walked in whilst I was practicing thought I was completely mad!

Getting Rapport is Key
As it's so difficult to 'connect' with the participants without the fact to face contact, then I had to make an extra effort in other ways. I had met the participants before but it was a long time ago and I had completely forgotten their names. Fortunately I had photographs of the last time we met and I asked someone who knew everyone to remind me of each of the participants. It weas invaluable when we did the intros at the beginning.

Zoom in and Zoom Out
One of the great things about videoconferencing technology is that on the system I was using the camera could scan the room and zoom too. This was brilliant for setting up parts of the room whilst the participants were focusing on what I had written on the flipchart. Simply zoom in and then do other stuff out of camera range...simple. If only we could do it in the face to face sessions!

Is there anybody there!
One of the funniest moments in the session was the sudden appearance of one of the participants from 'right stage'. I had been holding back the beginning of the session until everyone was present. Unknown to me, everyone was actually in the room, but one of them was hiding in glorious solitude out of the camera's eye. Lesson next time.....ask someone to arrange the chairs before participants arrive so that everyone is in shot.

Prepare the room....even when it's 3000 miles away
I had my room prepared - flipcharts, pens, blu-tak, participant list, outcomes etc, etc, and am I glad that one of the participants took it upon themselves to do the same at the other end. Next time I'll go one step further by arranging grapes, nuts, music, posters, pens, large post-its and a whole host of other table dressings to make the participants feel that every effort has been made to create a positive learning environment - 3000 miles apart.

If you have any ideas, experiences that can help facilitators bring their session to life over videoconferencing technology, your ideas would be very welcome.



Monday, 2 March 2009

How To Change Attitudes

The Way to Change Someone’s Attitude Is To Change Their Behaviour (And the Harder You Try the More they’ll Resist!)

In 1957, Leon Festinger published a ground breaking theory which changed the way psychologists thought about decision making and behaviour, and has also more recently given change professionals much to think about too.

The theory is called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ and works like this.  The Brain has the capacity to hold millions of ‘Cognitions’ or thoughts such as ‘I’m frustrated in my job’ and ‘Manchester United are playing at home tonight’. Most of the time these cognitions have little to do with each other (like my job and United).  However, some cognitions are related, for example ‘my boss doesn’t care’ and ‘I’m frustrated in my job’.  These cognitions are related and one follows on from the other…they go together or are known as ‘consonant’.

However, we sometimes have cognitions that are related but do not follow on from one another – in fact they may be complete opposites, for instance ‘my boss cares about my personal development and growth’ and ‘I’m frustrated in my job’.  The cognitions are referred to as ‘Dissonant’.

Here’s the really interesting part…Festinger’s theories demonstrated that people do not like dissonant cognitions…so much so that we will go to extraordinary lengths to eliminate it.  For example I could eliminate the dissonance in the example above by rationalising that my boss in only going through the motions, or that my boss doesn’t really have that much flexibility to change my job.

The principle here being that ‘the way to change someone’s attitude is to change their behaviour’

Consider a person in an organisation who is one of the most cynical people you can imagine.  Involving them in an improvement team may result in a response of ‘it’s just a fad…it will disappear like all the other initiatives” (holding this belief will reduce the dissonance for this person).

Invite them again and show them the follow through of actions from previous sessions and the response will shift to ‘I’ll wait and see if this will work’. It’s a small shift in attitude but its movement nevertheless.

Further involvement and tangible results will see yet further attitude change…we’ve experienced the transformation of literally hundreds of so called ‘doubters’ into change champion through this approach. 

"What small changes in behaviour could you bring about that would create a gradual shift in attitude, and what could you do as a follow-up that would change it yet further" are useful questions to reflect on as a leader or facilitator of change.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Employeeship - The Top 8 Mistakes

Enhancing the way in which people interact in an organisation sounds simple but it's not easy. 

Employeeship (or 'Medarbetarskap' as it's known is Sweden) has taken taken organisations by storm but doing it properly eludes many. The concept is simple. Natural teams come together to discuss subjects that we don't tend to discuss at the workplace: what is loyalty, self awareness, work and life goals, openness and transparency, work fulfillment and pride to name but a few. When it's done properly, the result are astounding with reduced stress and absence, improved customer service and profitability and, most importantly the growth of grounded people.

From experience though, there's a few traps lurking that can hinder progress, here's our experience.

1) Too much fear and cynicism. We wouldn't suggest that anywhere that struggles with cynicism starts with Employeeship....it will feel too much like hard work. The foundations require that people are at least able to reflect on how they are being and are able to articulate it. Cynicism would suggest something in the line of Leadership development would be a best first step.

2) Leadership seeing it as something for others to embrace. Often the most powerful intervention is simply to encourage employeeship conversations amongst the leadership community in an organisation. Imagine if your 'top team' were grounded individuals who were transparent people taking responsibility and accountability and who were open to feedback too! Those that expect it to start 'elsewhere' are missing the point.

3) Seeing it as a quick fix. This isn't about developing a flipchart full of actions or a milestone plan of tactics that the team are going to take. This is about reflecting on who we are as individuals who are choosing to work together as a team, changing the way in which we reflect and communicate with each other. This kind of change is self-organising and unpredictable AND very powerful too. Beware the CFO who is demanding a ROI in the first 6 months, rather celebrate a CEO that wabts to bring about lasting, transformational change.

4) Not listening first. We have always started with some focus group work to explore what's really going on in the organisation. This is critical in deciding what is the priority and sequence in the first dialogues. It's also useful to get advice from a cross section of people what seems to work in the way change is embraced. The key is to find out what works and do more of it.

5) Involving managers from different departments in the first workshops. This process of change requires critical mass. In the words of the complex systems change folks, it requires small 'containers'. Getting a large cross section together will dilute the energy afterwards. Go small but concentrated would be our advice.

6) Not developing effective facilitation skills. The word facilitation comes from the Latin root 'facile' or 'facere' which literally means to make it easy. Well trained facilitators are adept at asking high quality questions that probe the thoughts of a group and take the conversation to new depths...Empoyeeship is not trivial or superficial so this skill is key.

7) Reading from the script. A build on number 6 above is the extent to which the facilitator uses the Employeeship dialogues as a support or a script. The latter produces dialogues in the team that are much like working through checklists. However using the dialogues as a framework can allow the conversation to flourish

8) Not having the logistics sorted out. This requires that every natural team sets aside a 3 hour face to face meeting once every 4 - 6 weeks apart over a 6 -12 month period. With cross functional and global teams this can be challenging but it needs planning and committing too at the outset. There's nothing more damaging than a deteriorating level of participation as the process is underway.

With the increasing take-up of Employeeship as organisations are experiencing trauma, we expect to determine much more learning...and we're also very keen to hear from those who are participating in this type of change too so your comments are more than welcome.