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All change

15 April 13

A neat little illustration of how (not) to go about pushing for change if you want people’s goodwill

by Paul Gilbert

I had to make a presentation on change.

I started with a nice simple request: “Please put a hand up if you are comfortable with change.”

Fifty people in several rows in front of me. About half of them looked around anxiously and shuffled on their seats; the other half with varying degrees of enthusiasm raised a hand.

To the folks who raised their hands I asked them to leave the room. As they walked past me, looking slightly concerned, only a few asked what they had to do, to which I said they should just wait outside.

For the remaining half I had a question: “Why are you still in the room?”

Some wanted more information; most stayed silent and looked uncomfortable. I then asked them all to make a decision – to stay if they wanted to or to join the people outside. A handful left looking bewildered and cross.

Then a second question to those left behind: "Why haven’t you gone too?"

The consensus, not surprisingly, was that they didn’t know why they had been asked to leave; they didn’t know what would happen when they did leave; and staying put therefore was uncomfortable, but at least familiar. No one looked happy.

I then went outside. They also looked fed up, some especially so. “Ridiculous”, was one audible comment.

Everyone was invited back in.

The whole exercise took three minutes. So no time at all really for 50 people to be confused and irritated by change, whether they were comfortable with change or not.

It doesn’t matter if you are comfortable with change, because change without an obvious rationale, without communication and without a care for the people involved means goodwill evaporates and trust is shot to pieces.

As easy as that.

Paul Gilbert is chief executive, LBC Wise Counsel
Twitter: @LBCWiseCounsel; w: www.lbcwisecounsel.com
 

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