Posts Tagged ‘change management’

Design the change — better still, invent it, but don’t forget to manage it

July 10, 2014

(Extracts from a recent lecture on change management).

Without change even time does not exist.

Without change life itself is impossible. Elementary particles could be here or may be there. Schrodinger’s cat may be alive or maybe not. Atoms vibrate. Chemistry happens. Molecules are built. Some reproduce. Life emerges. The earth rotates. The Sun radiates. Energy is transformed. Species appear. Species disappear.  Evolution results. Continents drift. Climate changes. Energy is transformed. Radiation dissipates. Entropy increases. The Universe expands.

Before the Big Bang and the existence of time, all was stasis and maybe there will be stasis again. One day the Sun will die.

But till then we live – and die – with change. “Change Management”  appeared as a new discipline in the 1980’s to try and manage our behaviour during such change. Mergers and acquisitions across borders and cultures has given impetus to the field.

Change makes us uncomfortable but some deny it, some run away from it and some embrace it, but we all have to cope with it. The key lies in how pro-active we can be. We can classify increasing levels of being pro-active:

  1. Deny the change
  2. Observe the change
  3. React to the change
  4. Manage the change
  5. Design the change
  6. Invent the change

In the commercial world I would claim that the greatest benefit lies in being as high up among these levels as possible. I suspect that this applies to all fields of human endeavour and not just to commercial enterprises.

Denying that change has happened generally leads to isolation and eventually to extinction. That applies as well to a species as to a commercial enterprise or to an individual. Change can be gradual along existing trends or it could be a change in the trend or it can be a discontinuity and the start of a new paradigm. Observing and forecasting the changes to come is where change management begins. But there has to be a caveat here. Denying or failing to observe a change is very dangerous but so is assuming that a change is happening when it isn’t. Merely reacting to change is the norm and this passive approach means that the level of control is generally low. What will be will be. If change has happened, passive reaction must be replaced by active decisions. Even a “do nothing” option should be an active choice.

Predicting market trends is the stuff of life for market analysts and commercial enterprises. It is an attempt to observe change before it happens and to try and manage it. Even a defensive strategy should be an active decision. Establishing new products or penetrating new markets are attempts to design and manage a change. While designing a change gives a very strong position, it is no guarantee of success. Subsequent management of the change created will not happen automatically. Inventing change is the most powerful way of handling change but carries inordinate risks. A new paradigm – if created – may be quite unpredictable.

Sony invented Betamax but didn’t properly foresee the changing market they helped create.  But when they created the Walkman they shifted a paradigm. Nokia helped design the mobile telephony market but missed the switch to smart phones. Facebook and Myspace invented something new and a new paradigm of social connections ensued. But Myspace has not managed the subsequent change very well. The US invented the new Iraq but forgot to foresee or manage the change that they set in motion. The Indian electorate has invented Modi and it remains to be seen if he can manage the change and reinvent the country.

My message for all commercial enterprises becomes:

  1. Observe the changes around you (and try to forecast what they will be)
  2. Never forget to react to change
  3. Actively manage the changes which have already happened
  4. Aim to design or invent future changes but don’t forget to manage the change you create.


The Art of Motivation

April 21, 2011

I have been conducting a workshop on motivation in the work place as part of an exercise to establish a performance based incentive scheme for a company trying to change from being a family run enterprise to one which can be floated on the stock exchange in a year or two.

Praise Loudly, Blame Softly

In human behaviour, motivation can be considered to be a force. It is brought to bear when performing actions. Where actions have no purpose motivation is undefined. Where there is purpose I take it to be without doubt that the purpose is better served when the required actions are carried out by people who are motivated rather than by people who are indifferent.

The motivated state can then be described as that biological, emotional or cognitive condition which generates a force – variously called incentive, enthusiasm, inspiration, drive, desire, impetus or commitment – which can be applied to a person’s actions. The difference between a motivated person and an unmotivated person lies in the force they bring to bear when performing the same action. It follows that motivation is that particular force within a person which infuses dynamism into his actions or his behaviour towards a particular purpose. The art of motivation then lies in the manner of generating such a force of engagement in people when acting towards a particular purpose.  It is the influencing of human desires and drives by addressing their needs and deficiencies such that they have a vested interest in achieving the purpose. ……

It is a universal and well established observation that when some dissatisfaction is acute, all other drives and actions are subordinated to the alleviation of the acute dissatisfaction. …

What constitutes satisfaction or dissatisfaction varies from one individual to the next. What levels of these are considered acute or tolerable or acceptable or unacceptable or mild satisfaction or ecstasy, also vary with the individual. To what extent and with what velocity a change of state will drive an individual towards reaching a different state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction also depends upon the individual. With this level of variation, and with this dependence upon the individual, motivating people is in the realm of art and is still a long way from being an exact science. The use of rewards and penalties to achieve the actions chosen to be elicited from specific individuals is the art of motivation

….. To be able to consciously engage in motivation, which is a necessary task for a manager, it is vital that some assessment be made of the current status of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the subject. This in turn determines whether some other state of satisfaction or reduced dissatisfaction will be sufficiently separated from the current state for any motivation to be feasible. This applies irrespective of whether the subject is a subordinate, a superior or a complete stranger. Without such an assessment the drive actually generated by any motivator that is applied, will be nothing more than a guess. The objective is of course, to intentionally provide sufficient drive to the subject such that the desired action results and is carried out forcefully. In a few cases the manager will have sufficient information to be able to make a fairly accurate assessment. In most cases however, he will only have partial information. Nevertheless, the starting point must be an assessment of the current status. 

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