Change Takes Time

by Matt Poepsel, PhD

So when we want to change things about ourselves or about our organizations, not all of them are going to change at the same pace. And I thought what I do today is provide some examples We frequently talk about in the world of talent optimization, and just do a quick comparison for us. The first one is around awareness, we can change awareness very, very quickly. If we ask new questions of our people, if we use assessment type instruments, there’s ways that we can collect data, get awareness that I can happen, actually, pretty quickly.

When it comes to behaviors, we might start trying to do new things, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily stick. But if we wanted to change our behavior, we can do that right away. When it comes to mindset, it takes a little bit longer, there’s some ingrained patterns of thinking, really changing your mindset, we have to do a little bit more work on something like that. But in order to change mindset, it can be done, it just takes a little bit longer.

Inside of the organization, we think about alignment, how do we make sure we’re all aligned and pulling on the rope in the same way, and we’ve got everything lined up. And we’ve negotiated out sort of competing goals and competing styles and all the things that we’d like to talk about, that takes a bit longer still strategy, if we make a big pivot, it’s going to take a while for the organization to catch up with the strategy. So as fast as executives, you know, we tend to want things done yesterday. But realistically speaking for the implementation, people who actually have to adapt to the new strategy that takes a little bit longer, understandably, culture takes even longer still.

And we’re starting to see if you want to add something new to your culture, or perhaps we’d something out of the culture, it’s going to take time, a lot of repetition, these sorts of things. And then finally, mission, if we change the why behind why we do what we do, that’s going to take a long time to percolate through the system and to really make a big change. So if all of a sudden we’re making these dramatic changes in why we do what we do, the organization is going to be whipsawed back and forth, and it’s gonna take a long time to recover. So what are some of the forces that are driving and, and accounting for the differences in this pace of change? I like to say that the number of people involved as that goes up, it’s going to take longer.

So when you start thinking about organization wide change initiatives, you’re going to have to expect that these things take a lot longer in terms of their time, what about the amount of perceived risk to the individual or to the team, not all changes present the same amount of perceived risk to the individual. And however we might feel if we’re talking about like the executives, that’s a little bit less relevant than what’s happening on the front lines.

If they start to say, well, let’s talk about implementing a new computer system, it’s going to be great, all these new efficiencies, yes, but my risk of errors just went up. Yes, but my quality and the types of comfort that I had went down, the perceived risk is higher, therefore, so that’s going to take time for that to settle down. And then finally, habits and conditioning, if we’ve always done things a certain way, if we’ve always, for example, in culture terms, if we’ve rewarded a behavior for a long, long time, and we don’t want to see that behavior anymore. That’s going to take a while to get that out of the system, because we’ve had this conditioned responses habituated response to certain organizational behaviors.

So just to be aware that there’s always things that we want to change in our organizations to either take advantage of opportunities or move away from risk. But those changes depending on what it is we’re changing are going to take different horizons of time, if you will, in order to fully affect that change.