My recreational reading this week has been Temple Grandin‘s Animals Make Us Human. (Don’t worry, it’s not another animal post from Skeptechal!) I’ve found lots of great insights that will help me figure out why my cat behaves in ways that have been puzzling (although I am sure she will keep me guessing). Some of the lessons from the animal world are really reshaping some of my entrenched thinking about organizational change management.
Much of Grandin’s approach to more humane animal handling boils down to preventing the rage, fear and panic responses, and promoting seeking (curiosity) and play behaviors.
When we think about some of the typical overt and inadvertent messages that many companies release in the course of launching a big business initiative (be it a new ERP system, an acquisition, or an internal reorganization) we see much that is likely to press those rage, fear and panic buttons right out of the gate. Once these responses are in play, they are difficult to quell:
Welcome to the core team! You will need to spend 20 hours per week for the next nine months getting our new software ready for release. We know you will be able to work this into your schedules along with your current day job.
Here is the course outline for your job role (5 pages, 55 unique system tasks). We have one training session for your group (53 people), with 1 hour allotted this Thursday.
We haven’t had time to complete the testing but we only have a small launch window, so we are going live this weekend as originally planned.
You get the idea.
What if we approached things differently….and used early messages and techniques to promote curiosity and made even a small effort to make things fun:
- Instead of the typical big bang kickoff (complete with bulky boring slide deck) use internal social media tools like Yammer and Sharepoint to build excitement — dropping hints about how things will change for the better, without revealing all the details.
- Use gamification and crowdsourcing to augment formal software QA processes, rewarding people for completing their test cases on time, or naming winners for finding the must bugs
- Show users how to interact with the new system to get answers to their everyday questions BEFORE teaching them to plow through lengthy transactions
If we turn on the seeking and play behaviors first, we may have a good shot at keeping fear, panic and rage to a minimum.