Change management is not monkey business

Let me ask you a simple question. Do you have a favourite tipple? Why is it your favourite? Was it always your favourite? What was your previous favourite? What made you change? If you tried your current favourite sooner, would you have had more enjoyment out of life? Do you think it is likely that one day you will try another drink and like it better? Maybe you could apply this argument to your job, hobby if this is more meaningful. The thing most of will get out of this little exercise is the realisation that we probably all miss out on a great deal by being adverse to trying new things until we find ourselves directly in their path and suddenly discover a new source of pleasure or value. The second point that generally emerges from this exercise is the realisation that we are all generally content with adequacy rather than in pursuit of excellence or optimisation of value or pleasure perceived. (I feel another blog coming on)

Now let’s play for bigger stakes. Does your family have a favourite restaurant? Was this always the case?. How did you arrive at the consensus that this was you favourite restaurant? Are there one or two who don’t agree, but go along to keep the peace?

What would have to happen in order for you to adapt a new restaurant? What would make you seek out a new one, who would instigate this and how would the decision get made?   I suspect that these simple questions woke a few skeletons in most household cupboards. Hopefully they also lead you to consider how your family deal with these issues. Does one person lay the law down and solve the issue? Do you talk it out until there is consensus? Do you give way to certain individuals who seem to have the knack of getting their own way? Or maybe there’s a close knit clique who stick together and dominate everything. How will you decide whether it was a good decision or whether to keep trying? What will make you settle for a new place? Fatigue? Lack of ideas? Adequacy? Excellence?  There are many potential ways forward, but that’s not as important as stopping to think about how a close knit organisation with trust and communication go about changing their behaviour in some small way.

Now let me give you a puzzle to solve. By the way there’s no right or wrong answer to this.

Five monkeys were thrown in a cage with a banana on a shelf in the centre. Each time a monkey approached the banana all the monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water from a hydrant so very soon they began to attack any monkey who approached the banana in order to avoid being sprayed. Then the hydrant was taken away and each monkey was replaced with a new one over a period of months. Each new monkey approached the banana and was immediately beaten up, therefore quickly learning the rules. Eventually there was not a single monkey left who had seen the fire hydrant yet the beatings continued. If you were the next monkey to be put in the cage, what would your strategy be?. If you were a monkey put in the cage to stop them beating each other, how would you approach it? If you were the scientist controlling the experiment, how would you stop the beatings.

So what have we learned today?
If you don’t accept change you will be the loser in the end. Most good things come about as a result of change. Most, if not all change is forced upon us including changes for the better. Change in a small group is complex, change in an organisation is as much art as science and the consequence of getting it wrong is to create a self-destructive culture.
If you are planning a new product think long and hard about asking customers to change their habits.

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