“There are many ways to skin a cat, although the cat might not agree!” ~Will Rogers
The business world is obsessed with change; change management, change agents, change readiness, 8 Steps to Culture Change, business transformation, champions of change, culture change. The list goes on and on. I assume one of the reasons for such a huge focus on change by businesses is that technology, communications, markets and consumer expectations are changing rapidly. Globalization is a huge forcing function for change.
And the plethora of consulting firms are leading the “change cavalry”, with offerings from change readiness assessments to change management training to 8-step change frameworks and of course, culture change.
Yet with all this academic and consulting horsepower focused on business change, the interesting fact is the most change efforts fail more often than they succeed. Numerous studies have shown that around 50-70% of business transformation, culture change and even merger integrations fail to deliver on their intended objectives.
If Will Rogers were alive today he might be able to help explain this poor change performance, and the essence of his logic may be found in the “skin the cat” quote at the beginning of this blog. He might elaborate by saying something like: “the only cat that’s easy to skin is a dead cat, and even then you need a pretty sharp knife”!
The fact is, people don’t like things done to them. Humans tend to resist change that is imposed on them. Yet paradoxically, humans are the most adaptable and change oriented species on the planet, when they are a part of the process. And the most stubborn and resistant to change when it is forced on them.
One of the big lessons from my book, Leverage: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, has to do with culture change. Want to reshape your culture to better match changing business requirements and market dynamics?
Don’t call it culture change!
Avoid the word change. It has picked up over the years a toxic connotation in business, somehow implying that what we are doing is wrong and we (employees mostly) need to change. Making people feel wrong is a certain way to create resistance.
Why not focus on “making our business better” or “making work easier” or “more smiling happy customers”. Humans are wired for improvement, yet resistant to forced change. Then listen to what your employees have to say about making our business better. You may discover an easier way to “skin the cat”.
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
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John also writes thriller novels!