Change is Possible
In my End of the Year Message, I commented that “success should not immobilize us. […] Each of the sectors in which we participate will continue evolving, and Grupo Salinas should be at the forefront of this evolution.” We will continue to promote change. I also commented on this topic in a reference to the book "The Tipping Point," written by Malcolm Gladwell.
But change, especially on an organizational level, is often complicated. A leader needs tools to promote change. Another good book on the topic is “Switch, how to change things when change is hard,” by Chip and Dan Heath.
To understand the problem, the authors use an analogy known as “The Happiness Hypothesis,” in which the emotional side of the brain is compared to an elephant, while the rational side is compared with a rider. The rider drives the elephant, but his situation is delicate because of the size of the animal: when differences exist between the elephant and the rider, the latter can be crushed.
We’ve all experienced situations of this type: when we failed to stick to a diet; when we missed an appointment because we overslept, or in choosing a party instead of studying for an exam.
Change usually fails because the rider is unable to keep the elephant on the right path. The elephant’s constant need for immediate gratification often overcomes the rider’s determination to achieve his long-term goals.
But the analogy contemplates facets beyond the weaknesses of the elephant and the strengths of the rider. The elephant, our emotional side, is able to deploy great strength, while the rider can succumb to what is known as “analysis paralysis,” which should be avoided at all cost.
To achieve change on a personal and organizational level, we should involve both the rational and the emotional sides of everyone involved, since the elephant is the one who does the heavy lifting, while the rider plans and directs him/her.
In this context, the steps that the Heath brothers suggest to achieve change are: (1) lead the rider; (2) motivate the elephant and (3) map out the path; let’s see.
Lead the rider
Find those “bright spots”. These are real examples of transformation, successful efforts that are worth emulating. Emphasizing these bright spots is often the best way to demonstrate that things can turn out otherwise.
Detail the critical movements: Barry Schwartz reminds us that while the more options we have in front of us, “more overwhelmed we feel. The options often weaken us.” We should avoid the paralysis of multiplicity of options. This variety wears down the riders capacity to make decisions. It has been demonstrated that a store with too many options sells less than a store that only offers the best products. To avoid paralysis, we need to clearly and in detailed fashion schematize the key actions for change.
Indicate destination: design what the authors call a “destination postcard”: a vivid description of where it is possible to be when you fulfill your goals.
Motivate the elephant
Find the feeling that motivates change: This occurs when we speak directly to peoples emotions. Due to the uncertainty within him, the elephant will always have doubts about change, and rational arguments will not motivate him. But there is always an appropriate feeling for each circumstance, and negative emotions such as fear, which produces a crisis, can encourage sudden change, but positive emotions such as pride, interest, or the feeling of belonging, help us to carry out a long-term transformation.
Minimize the effort required: I have always said that “a thousand kilometer trip begins with the first step.” When the task appears to be too overwhelming, the elephant will stop. Big changes occur gradually. They begin with the small actions that you will later find difficult to abandon. A leader should be able to recognize and give credit for the small advances and design a strategy that can lead to immediate victories, because such victories produce hope, and hope feeds the elephant.
Make your people grow: Develop your peoples identities, because the sense of belonging is a great motivational factor. In this same sense, any effort that violates people’s identities will be condemned to failure.
Map out the path
Modify the environment: What often appears to be a problem of human failure is, in fact, derived from the situation at hand.To modify the environment implies making mistaken behavior more difficult and facilitating appropriate actions. Banks are tired that you forget your card in the ATM; this is why the new automated teller machine designs require that you remove your card before being able to take your money. This is also the reason why architects design open spaces in companies where continuous collaboration is required and engineers designed a mechanism so that you must first press the brake pedal before moving the gear shift to “drive.” Think about what changes you should introduce into your environment in order to promote change.
Promote the required habits: It is the small daily actions that we do almost automatically that facilitate change. According to the Heath brothers, habits are the automatic pilot of our behavior. A leader who manages to establish the appropriate habits in his people facilitates the progress of the organization.
Guide the flock: In unknown or ambiguous situations, people always search for signs or expressions of others that indicate the appropriate behavior. People act the same way that others do. A leader encourages the collective behaviors that promote change. Therefore, organizational culture is key; it is very important to clearly establish the required values.
Ichak Adizes reminds us that the cemetery is the only place where no change takes place. Let’s believe that change is life, the more change there is, the more life there is, and the more life there is, the better.
Change is possible and desirable. I wish you all a successful transformation.