Change management

There are a lot of approaches to change management, but for me, one of the most important aspects is transparency. Folks are never going to buy in if they don’t understand a) what’s happening, b) why it’s happening, and c) their role in the change.

This table does a great job highlighting all the ways change management can go wrong, and the emotion that comes with a poorly handled change attempt.


Successful change management is deeply tied to expectation setting, and facilitating the change throughout the organization, because change is emotional.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis) introduced the metaphor of an elephant and rider to describe the interaction between a person’s emotional side and rational side.

The elephant (the emotional aspect) is much bigger and more powerful than the rider. If the elephant doesn’t want to go where the rider is telling him to go, you can’t make him. The rider is a planner, a think-of-all-the-possibilities-person, and if he doesn’t have a map and directions, he’ll lead the elephant in circles.

The Heath brothers (Switch: How to change things when change is hard) expanded that metaphor to include a third factor that they call the path, which is the environment, the situation. It’s about removing obstacles, and making it easier to go the right way. Portion control — there are studies that show folks will eat a whole container, whatever the size, so you can control the situation — the path — by making only smaller containers available. This is crucial because motivating the elephant — the emotional element of the brain — wants what it wants and will power is a finite resource.

Here’s a case study I did about implementing process improvements in a business process at work. Click the arrows or the slide itself to advance the deck.


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