Let them move their own cheese

Jamie Notter is so smart—he really gets it when it comes to what makes change happen. And it's not "change management" (which, as he rightly observes, usually is more "change enforcement"), where management proclaims from on high that it has discovered what needs to be done, then tries to "persuade"(read, "make") everyone do it. And then they wonder why people resist?

I'm constantly amazed at how often this happens. In my experience, I've seen companies decide to change Internet platforms without ever asking anyone who uses the existing platform every day what they actually need to get their jobs done, launch new products without walking a mile in their customers' shoes to see what they really want, or need and don't even know it...it happens all the time. If you let ideas for change bubble up, rather than flood down, there's no need to persuade, or market, or hard-sell, the need for change. People will be champing at the bit to get it done, or buy the need product, or implement whatever change you're making.

To take it to the meetings/hospitality business: Why don't association boards listen to their meeting planners when it comes to improving their meetings, then make changes based on their experience, not the board's preferences? Why don't hotels ask housekeeping staff what would make their work easier or more efficient? Why don't planners really ask their attendees what would make them learn, and use what they learn after the meeting—in my book evaluations that give a 1-5 scale on speakers and the meeting overall don't really count.

Then take the next step: Those boards should walk a mile in the planners' shoes, hotel management should spend a week changing sheets, and planners should really pay attention when they're in the attendee seat to the meeting as a meeting. I'm all for change, but forcing change based on some consultant's advice, rather than the real-world needs of people, doesn't work. We know it doesn't work, even if the change actually is for the better, because no one wants someone to tell them where to move their cheese, even if it ends up being the same spot they would have chosen. It's a matter of respect, and top-down change management is anything but respectful.

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