(This is an expanded version of the second article on managing change and business transformation… and weight loss! — Ken
Why is it so hard for companies and people to change?
My long time neighbor Ron McMillan recently co-wrote two amazing books on change: Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, and most recently, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.
Ron helped found Vitalsmarts and he and three other colleagues are probably most known for writing the New York Times landmark bestsellers as Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. Ron was unavailable for an interview but his co-author David Maxfield joined me for half an hour on the topic of change management for companies and individuals.
I was sitting on my phone, taking notes in Evernote at a table at Roxberry, drinking a green smoothie to lose weight as I listened to David.
I had already heard he and his colleagues speak several times on these critical topics at BYU Education week every August.
The book Influencer is already on it’s second edition and is currently ranked in the Top 20 on Amazon in three categories.
Influencer stresses the importance of leadership in helping others change.
Change Anything is about changing yourself.
I asked David, “Why did Vitalsmarts choose the topics of change leadership and changing oneself?”
David responded, “Because change management isn’t working.”
“The Standish Group says 9 out of 10 large scale IT engagements don’t deliver on time, within budget, or to the specs that were promised.”
“At the more mundane personal level, we spend $2 billion a year on diets, but 19 of 20 people lost nothing but their money. Stanford studied the top 3 diets available and found that they all work… if you stick with them. But almost nobody does. We can’t live up to the change commitments we make.”
I said, “Wait, don’t call weight loss mundane! I represent that remark!” I at least lost 13 pounds on my last very expensive dietary adventure.
I go on, “So let’s attack both directions; how to change an organization and weight loss. Every day we have leaders in companies come to us to help them change their technology, but they don’t want to change their behavior or their culture. They’ve been working under the traditional sales model for decades. They have salespeople going face-to-face all over the country. They are faced with competitors who are generating web leads and inside sales people on the phone and they are getting hammered. They pull me aside privately and admit they don’t have the skills to actually change.”
I continue, “They buy salesforce.com, they hire sales trainers. They try to get marketing to stop worrying about un-trackable advertising and branding and start generating web leads, but nobody wants to change. They can’t get the reps to make the calls, to use the CRM, to follow the skills training. They can’t get marketing to focus on all that matters… leads!”
He laughs. “There are two forces at play here. Those things like technology, tools, and skills are above the water line. You can see them. But then there is everything below the water line: The cultural norms, what people do, the internal politics, the things you have to do to get things done. Change stops when it hits the iceberg below the waterline.”
“Here’s an example,” he continues, “Hospitals in the US are all trying to get 100% hand hygiene. There are 100,000 deaths a year in the US alone because people don’t wash their hands enough in hospitals. We stress what we call 200% accountability; for you, and for everyone else.”
“If you are a housekeeper cleaning the window, you wash your hands. And you better speak up to the surgeon who hasn’t washed her hands who walks in the room with the patient. But that is hard, very stressful. That is countercultural. Housekeepers don’t speak to surgeons, nurses don’t even speak to surgeons.”
“Unless you change that norm you don’t get hand hygiene. Putting up posters doesn’t work. But if you can change this one thing, you change all other areas of patient safety and cost control because you address personal factors, social factors and the environmental factors of change.”
I joked about drinking my Roxberry and my own crazy cycle of weight loss in a high stress environment. I asked David next, “So tell me about these six sources of influence.”
He responded excitedly, “Before the six sources of influence you ask two questions: Can I change? And, will it be worth it?”
He goes on, “Then you dive into personal motivation and ability, whether others around you enable or disable you, whether there is a system of incentive and if your environment makes it easy to do the right stuff, or tempting to do the wrong stuff.”
From his book, “Influencers do three things better than others. They are clearer about the results they want to achieve and how they will measure them. They focus on a small number of vital behaviors that will help them achieve those results. They overdetermine change by amassing six sources of influence that both motivate and enable the vital behaviors.”
The Influencer teaches how to master six sources of influence from psychology, social psychology, and organizational theory:
1- Personal Motivation: Help Them Love What they Hate. Work to connect vital behaviors to intrinsic motives.
2- Personal Ability: Help Them Do What They Can’t. Build personal ability to do behaviors through deliberate practice.
3- Social Motivation: Provide Encouragement.
4- Social Ability: Provide Assistance
5- Structural Motivation: Change Their Economy. Attach appropriate incentives or sanctions to motivate people to pick up or stop vital behaviors.
6- Structural Ability: Change Their Space. Things such as systems, process, reporting structures, visual cues, work layouts, tools, supplies, and machinery support vital behaviors.
Combining all six of these sources of influence help an Influencer overdetermine change.
I ask, “So tell me about your newest book, Change Anything.”
He responds, “We challenge you to escape the willpower trap and evolve a plan that works perfectly for your subject: you.”
He goes on, “When people can’t change, it’s rarely because they lack the will. They are blind and outnumbered: They’re blind to all but 1 or 2 of the 6 sources of influence… and there are far more sources under the waterline working against them than there sources acting for them.”
“People who see and use all six sources of influence are 10 times more likely to change and create change.”
“We all think we have the power to change just through our force of will. We know we should change. We want to change. But we don’t change!”
“That calls into question the belief that we actually do have power to change on our own. We call it agency.”
“The numbers say we don’t have as much as we think we do!” I pipe up.
He continues, “In the book we quote research that shows: 85% of efforts to drive new behavior in organizations fail. 87% of employees have suffered economically because they didn’t change. Only 1 in 5 American adults are financially prepared. Only 1 of 10 couples in marriage counseling actually stay together. 90% of those getting coronary bypass surgery are back to the same behavior within 2 years.”
Then his tempo increased, “4 years ago we studied 5000 people who tried to change. 4400 failed. 600 succeeded. How much more successful were the 600? As I said, they were 10x more likely to change. Why? They did 6 things better.”
He lists them, so I number them:
- They learn to love what they hate.
- They learn skills to do that they couldn’t.
- They recruit accomplices to help them change.
- They remove the accomplices that stop them from change.
- They use or lose incentives to help them change.
- They control their space, their surroundings, to make it easier to change.”
“They focus on the 6 sources of influence, 6 levers they can pull, rather than endlessly tugging on willpower alone.”
So I stop him, “So where do you begin? How does a business leader start?”
He responds, “Ask first… is the problem worth solving?”
He laughs, “My dad always said, ‘If something’s not worth doing at all, it’s certainly not worth doing well!’ So build a business case. In the hospital example we call it a clinical case. Is it worth it? Or more important, what happens if you don’t change?”
“Ouch!” I say, “I better stick with my green smoothies! So teach me to lose weight, what would you tell me to do?”
He eagerly responds, “Start with what we know. Calories. Eat right and exercise. Track progress. If you are normal you will encounter setbacks. Instead of being frustrated, turn a bad day into good data. You are a scientist. What were the ingredients of the setback?”
“Let’s say you stop at Starbucks, you are late for a plane, you order a beverage with 3000 calories. Then later you say, Dang! That was a horrible thing to do for my diet. What was I saying to myself? I skipped lunch. I’ve been standing all morning, I deserve it. I’m worn out, I’m tired.”
“Should I say something else to myself?
“Identify crucial moments when I fail. The 6 sources come in when I light up an exercise strategy. Are there obstacles that I can turn into advantages. My plan is to run an hour for 3 days a week. Personal motivation. What do I dislike most? The place I run. Indoors? Go outdoors.”
“Do I love music playing? Download your favorite songs to your iPhone 5s. Get a carrying case to strap on your upper arm. Maybe there are a new pair of shoes to make it more pleasant.”
“That us Personal motivation.”
“Personal Ability? Learn more about running groups. Learn a new exercise for when it’s raining or my knees are sore.”
“Social motivation. Partner to run with, email a partner when you run. Have them email you also.”
“Social ability side. Maybe I need to work with my spouse to free up time with me in the morning, she fills in, then I help her out in another time…”
“Structural. Incentives work. If I can find short term rewards for myself it makes a big deal. Also, put skin in the game. Put something at risk.”
“My neighbor is on the Olympic Nordic combined team. His coach asked him to lose 10 pounds. Strict diet. Weigh food. Exercise. He decided to put a pile of $20 bills on the mantle. Every Friday his wife and daughter would evaluate whether he did good. They would so something fun or burn the $20 bill in the fireplace. Yale expert Dean Carlin studied that and found it is very effective.”
“Structural Ability. How about a heart monitor. New shoes. Identify more trails. Moving to a location on a trail. That is changing your environment to help you succeed.”
I interject, “So I’m stacking the deck every possible way for my success! Where does building a predefined plan fit in?”
He responds, “It would fit into defining Vital Behaviors. We often map out a plan, it really starts getting meaty when you get setbacks. Here is a crucial moment when you combine 6 sources of behavior.
“Who is the german general said there is no war plan that withstood the first battle? You have to extemporize. It was often cited by Henry Kissinger.”
“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” – Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
I’ll try and find the quote. With the interview coming to a close, I ask, “Of the 6 variables, which is the one they don’t do? And what are the easy ones?”
He chuckles, “Couple of different answers. Easy answer, people are different. That is a copout. I was working with the leader of an addiction center. He said he can put all sources in place for a Hollywood starlet, but they have to want to change.” Personal motivation is first. Agency, or what little they have.
He went on, “The ones they underplay the most is the social support. Adding a social element, getting a partner. Many times the people you think of as friends, are accomplices. They enable or discourage the wrong stuff. Your friends won’t tell you to lose weight, if you give them permission they will help you. If you don’t, they won’t.”
It finally dawns on me, “So I guess I get my friends involved, especially my wife Crystal. So what’s first, how to get started? Where do you begin?”
David concludes, “Is it worth it? What is your default future? If you don’t lose the weight, what will happen? Where do you want to be? Can you visit it and make it tangible?”
I start thinking that it’s hard to lose weight. But it’s also hard living life without losing weight. Which life do I want?
“Ok,” I respond, “I’m in.”
Long interview, breakfast is over. I order another green smoothie for lunch. 132 calories, light and lean. Fresh Pineapple, celery, other green stuff. I wonder if I can do the same for dinner.
Time to change.
Author: Ken Krogue | Follow me on Google+
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