Hi ho – off to Helsinki tomorrow to get some people on board with a 16-country project I am managing for a client.
I was in Copenhagen a week ago and that was a tough trip – people were very resistant to the change of the project and it made me think.
Managing change is a bit like boiling a frog.
Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway gave a speech at the Harvard Law School in 1995. In this speech, Munger cited a small lesson from frogs. He said:
“If you throw a frog into very hot water, the frog will jump out, but if you put the frog in room temperature water and just slowly heat the water up, the frog will die there.”
This speech was given way back in 1995. So we can expect the current generation of frogs to have become intelligent enough to understand this mystery, but sadly this ‘frog in boiling water’ syndrome continues to play out for both frogs and change management.
Let me explain.
Most people dont do well by being thrown into a sudden change. It’s overwhelming and intimidating. They jump straight out of the pot, kicking and screaming. To allow people to adapt to the change, it helps to introduce it slowly – building up a great deal of context of why the change is happening and selling benefits and opportunities to them. As they get used to this change, they warm to the idea and relax a bit. Once they relax, they dont notice that the water around them is heating up and the reality of the change is coming closer and closer to them. Pretty soon they are right in the middle of the change and they totally accept it. Cooked. Dinner is served.
The job of a change management specialist is therefore to get people accustomed to the change happening around them by creating solid context and understanding prior to the change happening. Within my work, a combination of the context being built up with the rules and structures of the program creates a cocoon which enables them to be tough enough to handle the metamorphosis from the change.
So whilst I am in Helsinki, the game I am playing is to slowly but gently cook some frogs.
Till next time