People, Not Technology:
The Key to Successful Change Management
by Melissa Fender
|The Internet and the World
Wide Web... Windows 95 and Pentium PCs... Competitive advantage through strategic
information technology initiatives such as groupware and intranets... The newest trends
and latest technologies are encroaching into every facet of corporate life. Even TV ads
today announce the addresses of websites where further information is available. There is
no escaping the rapid pace of technological development. We now have the technology and
the tools to build solutions that a few years ago, we only dreamed about.
New technology, new tools and new applications mean big change. Not everyone reacts to change the same way. Some people are always looking for better, more efficient ways to do things. Others pine for the good old days of clearly defined jobs and responsibilities. Some people want to get moving with whatever is new right away. Still others fight any change that conflicts in any way with their values or threatens the welfare of anyone around them.
For people to buy into change, they have to fully accept its value to them on a personal basis. That means that the change has to support the things that really drive them the core needs and values that determine who they are. If those needs and values are met, most people deal quite well with change. If they are not met, the adverse reactions can range from passive resistance to sabotage. So it makes sense to try to meet those needs and support those values.
People differ, so it is safe to assume that their basic needs and values differ too. Curiously, most of us tend to behave as though everyone shares our perspective. We all question the motives or sometimes even the sanity of those who do not act as we would in the same situation. Often, those people simply do not share our basic needs and values.
Observable data indicates that there are four different categories of core human needs and values. The early Greeks and Romans thought the categories were based upon bodily fluids; modern research is mapping them to areas of primary brain activity. Leading edge thinking sees them as systemic patterns, similar to fractals. Since they have such a large effect not only on the pattern of our perceptions and actions, but also on our character, they are called temperaments.
The Four Temperaments
The Artisans make up the second largest group (est 35-40%). The Artisans' core needs are to be free to chose their own next action and to make an impact. They focus on the current moment - on the richness of the details around them and on the opportunities available for spontaneity, experience and adventure. They value excitement, variety and immediate action. They trust their impulses, doing what is needed to get the outcome they want. So, they move to action regardless of the risks, and usually get results! They generally make excellent negotiators, troubleshooters and crisis managers because their awareness of their surroundings and their tactical skills are outstanding. Artisans are not often visible in the corporate world or most other highly structured environments. Many have adapted or "bailed out". Losing such effective change agents is unfortunate in an era requiring continuous active change. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a typical Artisan, launched many results-oriented programs in the Great Depression era.
The other two groups, the Idealists and the Rationals, together represent only 15-25% of the population. Their thought processes are abstract and they focus on patterns, symbols and meanings rather than the concrete sensory data and experiences that the Guardians and Artisans concentrate on.
The need for meaning and significance, and the lifelong development of unique identity are what drives Idealists (est 9-13%). They value authenticity, benevolence and empathic relationships. With one eye on their vision of the best possible future world, they strive to become better and to grow themselves and others. Abraham Maslow, an Idealist, coined the term "self-actualization" to describe this drive. Idealists prize harmony, unity and ethics. They are the catalysts that are often most ready to help each side see the other's point of view. They appreciate and inspire others, often acting as mentors, counselors and diplomats. Their need to live authentically and meaningfully can lead Idealists to take strong stands. They often act courageously to stay values-oriented in the face of opposition. Mahatma Gandhi was an Idealist whose principles of peaceful, passive resistance had a profound effect on India.
Rationals are the smallest group (est 6-12%). Their core needs revolve around two related areas - knowledge and understanding, and competence and self-control. They value intelligence, logical consistency and expertise. They are life-long learners, in search of the "ultimate truth". They build theoretical models of the world in their heads, striving for accuracy and precision, especially in language. They listen to reason and analyze everything. Strategy, design and invention attract them, and skill in these areas often develops. Like the Artisans, they focus on outcomes rather than social norms. Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein were Rationals.
Resistance to Change
Guardians resist change when their sense of responsibility is challenged. They see themselves as the protectors of tradition and security, with a motto of: "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!" To accept change, they need to know the rationale and the benefits. They need to know that what is good will be preserved. Most of all, they want to know what is going to be done and that there is or will be a careful, step by step plan to make the change. They like to be the preservers and the planners, with concrete details of the end product in mind. If possible, give them a list of others who have succeeded doing the same kinds of changes. Once they have "bought in", they wholeheartedly support controlled change.
Valuing freedom above all, Artisans resist imposed change, especially if they have not been involved up front. Although they like action, they prefer it to be of their own choosing.. But given their fraternal team-oriented attitude, they will play even an uncomfortable assigned role if the achievement of the ultimate goal requires it. They are superb at sensing people's motives, knowing "what's in it" for everyone. They quickly spot any incongruence between words and actions, between management's speech and directives. They are very good at tactics and getting "the show on the road". Long planning processes frustrate them. Artisans like involvement, right where the action is. They thrive on "skunk works" projects and beta testing, at trying new things to see if they might be useful, and figuring out how to make things work.
Idealists resist change that seems to have no meaning, no opportunity for people to better achieve their potential. They need vision and commitment from management to build the trust required for them to work for change. They want to know who will be affected and how . The change must support their value systems and their vision for the good of the organization. If it doesn't, they are capable of very powerful resistance. On the other hand, given the opportunity to participate and improve the situation, Idealists can be strong advocates. They soften harsh messages and build consensus throughout the organization, primarily through informal organization-wide networks.
Rationals resist change they deem to be illogical, unreasonable or unfair. They will give no support to anything that does not make sense to them. They also resist any change that threatens their sense of personal competence. If they don't understand why a change is necessary or beneficial, they will designate as incompetent either themselves or the promoter of the change. They often fear not being able to analyze and solve the problems they will face in the new environment. The antidote is knowledge. Rationals need to understand the change thoroughly and know that their reasoning abilities have an valuable place in the new order.
To summarize simply, Guardians need to know "How", Artisans need to know "What", Idealists need to know "To whom and for whom" and Rationals need to know "Why". When you think about it, these are good questions to answer with any change, regardless of temperament!
Temperament and Technology Change
Guardians comprise about 25% of IS staff, chiefly application programmers. They work best with complete, detailed specifications, and rarely deviate from what they are asked to do. Guardians are found in much larger numbers among corporate end-users - about 50% of entry-level workers and over 60% of executives. Guardian IS staff can relate very well to their counterparts in user departments. Their core needs, sequential mental processing and language style match, though many have difficulty communicating across departmental boundaries.
Guardian users need complete, sequential documentation of any new system. They generally do best with formal training, and it must be hands-on. Start by showing them, step by step, how to do each of the tasks they do today. Point out the similarities with the way they currently do the task, and explain the benefits of each difference. Make sure that every step is documented exactly the way it is being done. If there are any differences due to last minute changes, point them out. Make sure each person's notes are correct. The second phase of the training is to show the new capabilities of the system in the same methodical manner. Grow these processes into the big picture, being careful to proceed sequentially.
A "let's get on with it now", can-do approach typifies the Artisans. Not for them the traditional class. They would much rather figure it out for themselves. In fact, some Artisans' last resort may be reading the manual. On the job training based on a specific required outcome is probably their best learning situation. They are great at finding flaws and exceptions in a system and, once they have figured out what to do, they can show others.
Idealists tend to hold positions where they can influence rather than wield direct power. They strive to move toward their vision of a perfect world, where everyone has an opportunity to achieve full potential in a supportive, harmonious environment. Since they always have at least one eye on that horizon, they do best when given the "big picture" first. That can be in the form of an overview presentation. It needs to include what will change and what the benefits will be for each party involved. The actual change agents should present, and must truly believe what they say the Idealists will recognize any congruence. Once the Idealists understand and accept the overall message, detailed lab sessions will teach and reinforce the specific learning required. Idealists eagerly help other participants and appreciate the opportunity to do so.
The Rationals are the largest group in IS, estimated at about 40%. This may be an explanation for the characterization of IS as overly focused on theory and technology rather than solving concrete business problems. In the entry-level corporate world, Rationals comprise only about 10% of the total, although the more planning oriented and directing among them are found in somewhat higher numbers in senior management.
Rationals need to see the big picture first, starting with the goal and why it is important. They prefer an analytical line of reasoning, with each point made exactly once. They abhor redundancy as wasteful, and sometimes interpret it as an attack on their intellectual competence. A credible strategy for achieving the change that is consistent with the demonstrated goals of the organization should follow. Minimize the details and keep the formal presentation short. Some Rationals (especially IS staffers) may need considerable "think time", up to several days, to complete their analytical process. Rationals engage positively in the change process by asking probing questions. Although they may appear to be attacking, they may be merely seeking clarification. As with the Idealists, the hands-on learning follows last. Rationals are more likely to compete to master the new learning first than to help one another.
How to Apply Temperament
Training should be modular, flexible - tuned to the temperaments of the trainees. Be prepared to alternate hands-on sessions with presentations of theory and clear directions for implementation. Assume that Guardians will prefer a well-organized hands-on to start, and a detailed, formal session to follow. Rationals and Idealists will want an overview first and hands-on last. You can meet their differing needs in a single, carefully planned session which starts with the big picture and ends with the detail. The Artisans may want to opt out of formal training altogether. Give them early access to the system to help you debug it. Encourage but don't force anyone to attend training. Set up a challenge exam to certify those who want to learn on their own.
To get started, ask everyone in IS to read this article. Then, meet at least twice, to discuss reactions, observations and opinions. Make sure everyone is heard. If everyone is willing, people can try to self-identify their own temperament. Try to avoid making assumptions before the discussion. Each person should try to articulate their needs: "If you're going to change what I do, then here's what I need to be comfortable about it." If it goes well, repeat the process with your users. There are three goals for everyone: to see their peers in a new light, to have greater understanding and tolerance for the differences between people, and to better appreciate and capitalize on these differences.
A word of caution. This is not a parlor game.. However, even this basic information can improve cooperation and support in your organization. You can accomplish considerably more with the help of trained professionals. Many successful companies today realize that success with technology means more than buying "the right stuff". It means careful attention to the core needs and values of everyone involved.
Adapted by the author from her article in the
|We appreciate your comments and observations. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the author at:|
357 Beechwood Road
Berwyn, PA 19312-1063
Telephone: 610-647-8662 Fax: 610-647-7796