This past week I have seen practical change management open and fail right in front of me.
Where I live over the last few weeks, we have been subjected to many, many changes to the flow of traffic and accessibility of certain roads and accesses. This is due to significant utilities works in the area.
None of us really like changes to our local roads, but one set of circumstances caused me to reflect on this and look at how we manage change in our organizations. Now this is nothing new, but it may put a different perspective on what we do and how we do it.
To help you understand let me explain the previous conditions. “business as usual” if you like.
The road on which I live is encircled by major links between local towns and major arteries. The local roads jet very busy at particular times, especially at rush hour and when major events are taking place at Twickenham Rugby Ground. Most of the traffic using one road are almost exclusively local residents for access.
Due to major sewage works locally, one road was changed to temporary traffic lights for access, and another running parallel to this ( a more significant road) had reduced width.
Next this reduced width was changed to no-entry, causing the second smaller road to have to take the traffic overflow.
This went on for a few weeks, before last week they closed the major road in both directions. Then 48 hours later, they made the parallel road one way.
Summary of the change
In the period of one week roads that were 2 way, become congested, then one way (with poor signage).
The net effect or change
Local drivers used to their route, basically continued to drive the wrong way down a one way road, they ignored no left/ right turn signs, drove past no-entry signs. To many this was not just ignoring the signs, but because they lived locally, honestly did not think the signs were meant for them. Others just did not see the signs.
From a change perspective this is interesting. People “saw” the communication at one level, but at another did not think it applied to them. Now if we as human beings can do this driving one tonne killing machines, its no wonder why people ignore policy and procedure changes in business.
Habits of change
Change is not WHAT about the what needs to be done differently – but the missing link is the WHY. To us humans, the development of habits are to some extent life saving, they are survival level skills. For us to change takes massing decision making power. Its not just as easy as wanting to change. We (our brain) or unconsciousness, needs a really good reason to change. Telling us once often is just not enough.
Research by Associate Professor Sam Charlton of the University of Waikato (NZ) found that
drivers in a sign awareness test only noticed an average of 15.3% of the speed signs on the roadside. And these were adequately maintained signs, not the overgrown or vandalised ones.
instead of relying on signs, most drivers unconsciously adjust their speed based on perceptual cues
In the article they conclude that
The best way to change behaviour is to change environments
And this is just as true for change in business as it is to the highway environment.
Learning change techniques from roadworks. Change is often intangible. how can we manage or influence it? using a physical world example we explore its impact