Thursday, May 17, 2007

Re-Playing the Change Game – What We Noticed This Time

In a previous post, How is Change Like Strip Poker, we talked through how people react to change processes, and we used a game for experiential learning. See that post if you want to know the mechanics of the game. The basic idea is to have people experience a change process and notice what kind of reactions and emotions they go through while they try to change. Well, today we played the game again with a group of senior managers, who are themselves leading a change process in our institution. Here are some of the dynamics that we noticed as the group was asked to undergo a change process themselves. We also wonder, how might this "laboratory experiment" give us some insights on what is happening or might happen in our institution as we all undergo change?

Creativity breeds creativity and resistance breeds resistance. If your partner, or colleague, is having fun with a change process, you are more likely to find the fun in it too (or at least try). However, if someone is actively resisting change, then those around them are less willing to change, or feel less able to change.

Your willingness to change might also depend on who you are working with. Your reaction to change might be swayed by the observed behaviour around you (so following the crowd) but also with your underlying relationships. If change is perceived as a risk, how much trust is there in the team to encourage this perceived risk-taking behaviour?

Change is a highly individual process. Some people go from fear to delight and others go from delight to fear. People can have different experiences over the same period of time. Most people will question change, but they might question it at different times based on their assumptions of the goals and their perceptions of the results being achieved along the way, as well as how uncomfortable they might become (for many reasons) at different stages in the process.

Change will happen at different levels, and deep change takes time. It takes people some time to stop changing things at a superficial level and to start to think how they can change more fundamentally (like mental models, versus moving your watch from one arm to the other). Everyone will do the easy stuff first, and everyone has a different perception of easy.

Change can make you richer, but you can't always imagine that at the onset of the process. After the initial assumption about change as loss, and when there is nothing easy left to change, people start to use resources differently. At the end of our process, people tended to have more than they did when they started. They began to pick up tools, resources, other objects, and for the most part, were richer in material terms than when they began.

Looking at change differently. In our exercise one person in the last round actually put on someone else’s shoes – that seemed like a nice metaphor for trying to understand another person’s experience with the change process. This same person also asked, “is someone going to get a prize?”, as though openness to change should be rewarded. The nice part was, that person in both instances, was the boss.

1 comment:

Frits Hesselink said...

Thanks Gillian, this is a good reminder of what kind of learning this exercise can trigger.

When I did it with private sector professionals, their main feedback was about experiencing the need for urgency to change, the degree of painfullness, the creativity, the stealing of ideas of others and the greater pain of not changing.

I remember some similar remarks from our CEC Deep Change meeting last November. I noticed that time that the 'educators' among us responded: why does real change has to cause pain, can't we make it much more pleasant.

I would say - like in a bad news conversation - come up with the bad news of pain up front, let it sink and then explore together where we can mitigate some of the pain. But I would accept pain as a fact of life. It reminds me of Lizzie's last posting where she is wondering about the cold turkey!