Consider these research findings about organizational change:
- Change can be painful: Organizational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort. Trying to change hardwired habits requires a lot of effort, in the form of attention. This often leads to a feeling that many people find uncomfortable. So they do what they can to avoid change.
- Behaviorism by itself doesn’t work: Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run (e.g. offer the right incentives, and the desired change will naturally occur.) Yet there is plenty of evidence from both clinical research and workplace observation that change efforts based on typical incentives and threats (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run.
- Humanism by itself doesn't work: In practice, the conventional empathic approach of connection and persuasion doesn’t sufficiently engage people. This phenomenon provides a scientific basis for some of the practices of leadership coaching. Rather than lecturing and providing solutions, effective accountability coaches ask pertinent questions and support their clients in working out solutions on their own.
- Repetition, consistency, perseverance are keys: Repeated, purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting evolution and continual improvement. For insights into why change is necessary, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as forgone conclusions.
BOTTOMLINE: Knowing these factors before going into your business process improvement can help set expectations appropriately.