How I Convinced My Elephant To Do My Laundry

It's that time of the year again. Time for abandoning your New Year's resolutions. According to several top-x lists on the web, these are the most popular lies we like to tell ourselves at the beginning of a New Year: lose weight, get fit and quit smoking. How good are you at keeping your New Year's resolutions? Would you like a little help to keep your promise this year? Ever thought of turning to an Elephant for help? Why don't you give it a try and read on. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain...

Do you remember all the times you promised yourself you were going to lose weight? Meaning, all the times you started a diet but gave up after only two days? Or how about all the times you had the intention to get up early. So you could dive into the pile of work waiting for you at the office? But thanks to the inventor of the snooze function, kept on snoozing when your alarm clock went off? Sounds familiar?

Change Is Hard

In life, you're in the drivers' seat. And although you are in control… tweaking something small to improve your life, is often difficult. Change is tough. Keeping that in mind, try to imagine how hard it is when change is forced upon you. For instance when organizational changes at work are announced.

A decision made by your management that changes a whole process and impacts your day-to-day work. A little push in the back, a "nudge" that helps you get through the transition. Wouldn’t that be great? Enter ‘Change Management’. Successfully guiding companies and individuals through change while working towards a certain (business) outcome… That is what Change Management is all about.

We're Only Human

Resistance to change is characteristic for the human race. And often there are several elements peeping around the corner ready to intensify this feeling. The most common catalysts are:

  • Miscommunication, and
  • The fear of the unknown.

That is why it’s important to identify the changes for each of the affected stakeholders. Inside and outside the organization. Potential problems and issues need to be detected and traced as soon as possible to prevent future setbacks. Stakeholders need to be involved from the beginning and need to care about how the changes will affect their personal situation. Once the required changes are determined for each stakeholder, a tailored approach can be developed, applied and managed.

Time To Switch

Countless books and models about organizational change have been published. But only a few of these models take the human psyche and the ‘reasons why’ people are so resistant to change into account. One of these models is the Switch-model by Chip and Dan Heath. Instead of only tackling change from the traditional, organizational point of view...  in their book: ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’ they approach change from both an individual and a societal angle. Refreshingly, in the change-model of the Heath brothers, change is seen as something positive. To accomplish change they focus on what works, rather than focus on what doesn’t work.

With A Little Help Of An Elephant

According to Chip and Dan it's necessary to focus on three different aspects of change. To illustrate these aspects, they use the metaphor of an Elephant, a Rider and a Path.

  1. The Elephant is the emotional and intuitive side. The Elephant needs to feel, to take small steps and to be able to identify with peers.
  2. The Rider is the rational side. In most cases people acknowledge that change is necessary and that it's logical that change will have positive consequences on the long term. However, accomplishing the change in reality is not as obvious and simple as it looks like (remember dieting?). The rider can't control a hungry elephant forever. So look at what's working. Be (very) specific about what exactly you want to change. And know where you're going and why you are going there.
  3. That is why it should be clear where you are heading to. The clearer the Path, the fewer the obstacles the Elephant will find on his way and the better the Rider can plan in the long term. In other words: the smoother the change will go

The Sound Of Reason

Applying the switch model in projects, I’ve learned that it is a framework (on how to reduce the resistance to change), rather than an integrated change approach.

By adding the following elements within the framework, like:

  • mapping changes
  • stakeholder analysis
  • communication plan

you’ll find yourself at the beginning of a successful change management track in no time.

The Switch-model is a great guideline throughout projects; it helps to clarify the current and future situation. But above all, it helps to pave the road to get there and also shows:

  • how you can let people grow
  • how you can limit change for certain stakeholders
  • how to build habits
  • how to engage whole groups…

In short it helps you use reason to defeat emotions, with a little help of an elephant.

I Shrunk The Change

We often set ourselves very big business goals. But achieving such a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) can be overwhelming, where do you start?

Well... in real life it's exactly the same. For instance, last week I did my laundry. But I still needed to catch up on my ironing from the previous weeks. The heap was enormous and I just couldn't find the motivation to start. Shrink the change, said SWITCH.

So that's what I did.

I gave myself an exact timeframe of 15 minutes each day. Right after dinner, when I normally relax in front of the television for a little while, I obliged myself to iron 15 minutes while watching television. Today, a week has passed, and my ironing is almost completely done.

Now, think about your New Year’s resolutions, how will you shrink your desired changes? Let me know how it turned out and good luck!

Photo by Ethan Crowley

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