President Of TrainSmart, Inc.
If you Google Organization Change, you’re likely to come up with over 26 million results. If you type in Organizational Change in an Amazon search, you’re going to have more than 1800 titles to choose from.
A lot of people have a lot to say about leading change in business For good reason: the majority of change initiatives fail. When John Kotter published his landmark research in 1995, it showed that only 30% of change initiatives succeeded. Not only did Kotter write about the failure of change programs, he offered a prescription to succeed.
Whether it’s John Kotter’s 8 Step Model for Change Management, Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model or the ADKAR model for change, organizations have spent millions of dollars trying to implement processes that will result in a successful change environment.
However, in 2009, when McKinsey & Company ran its own research on the success of change management initiatives-interviewing over 1500 business executives — their research showed the meter had not budged one bit in the past 18 years. The results of the McKinsey research: a 30% success rate in change management initiatives –the exact same when Kotter did his research.
So what’s the problem? According to McKinsey the problem is that organizational development experts created rational and logical models and that employee reaction to change is irrational.
In implementing the prescription, they disregard a scientific truth of human nature: people are irrational in many predictable ways. The scientific study of human irrationality has shown that many of our instincts related to understanding and influencing our own and others’ motivations push us towards failure instead of success.
We systematically fall victim to subconscious thought processes that significantly influence our behavior, even though our rational minds tell us they shouldn’t.
What does this mean for change management training? For starters, it means that using a change management model is not enough. Leaders need to get a better understanding of irrational thinking as well as the different ways people respond to change.
Just saying irrational thinking in a corporate setting feels like an oxymoron. However, in order to succeed in a change management environment, leaders need to understand, appreciate and have tools to deal with how change influences irrational decision making.
As Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Want to get a jump start on incorporating irrational thinking into your change management training? Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely has written extensively on the subject. Two of his New York Times Best Sellers include Predictably Irrational and the Upside of Irrationality.
If you’ve already read the book, what are some of your key takeaways and how they apply to change management?
In part two, we’ll look at how different behavioral styles respond to change.