A Clear Indicator That It’s A Square Peg In A Round Hole

146/365 square peg into a round hole | Daily Shoot: Lose the… | Flickr

While I’m not one for waffling on (although, I’m sure my gorgeous wife may suggest otherwise…) – I’m going to get straight to the point. The language we use provides a glimpse into our mindset, and our mindset directly affects our likelihood of successful change.

The wrong mindset, the wrong approach.

The wrong approach, the wrong outcome.

So, over the next two weeks I’m going to cover two phrases (and underlying mindsets) that I’ve noticed will lead to change failure more often than not.

Phrase 1: “We Need To Educate Them On The Value”

Underlying mindset: It doesn’t matter how cumbersome this methodology is, they have to do it because it’s best practice! Why can’t they see that?!

This is a phrase that I never hear with malicious intent, but it is ultimately one that tells me one thing immediately: what you’re offering isn’t valuable (at least in its current form).

Here’s the situation where I most often hear this phrase…

ACME Inc. knows it’s highly inconsistent in <insert your professional practice here>, so they approach a particularly enthusiastic member of staff (let’s call them Ernie) and send them off on a 5 day course. Typically this is PRINCE2 or PMBOK for Project Management, MSP for Program Management, PROSCI for Change Management (which as an aside, is a term I’m not a fan of) and ISO31000 for Risk Management.

It’s not cheap, but by the end of the 5 day course Ernie has studied hard and passed his exam. He is eager to bring all this useful knowledge back to ACME Inc.! Management at ACME Inc. are also eager to get a return on their training investment, so they designate Ernie as the resident expert in <insert your professional practice here>.

Ernie soon gets to work ‘tailoring’ the framework and templates for ACME Inc. (mainly ensuring it aligns with the corporate style guide), and then emails everyone across the business to let them know that the framework is now ready for use.

“Great!” they say. They look at the pretty framework that has way too much info on it, scroll through the list of 20 templates and pick one at random that roughly suits their current need. It’s 15 pages long in headings and instructions alone…

…and so they close it, along with Ernie’s email – never to open either one again.

A few months go by, and Ernie sits there both baffled and frustrated. “Why is no one using this stuff?! It’s proven in the largest organisations! It’s best practice, and the trainer was so enthusiastic!” ACME Inc. is similarly disappointed – having poured $50k in salary and training costs into this mess. Ernie is genuinely struggling to get his head around the idea that this useful stuff just isn’t being used – because the methodology makes so much sense on paper. It’s then that when we hear those fateful words:

“We Need To Educate Them On The Value”

In other words. The methodology can’t be wrong – so it must be them! Those people that just refuse to adopt it! They just don’t understand!

“What do you mean you don’t have time to do 14 different templates on roughly the same thing?”

But there’s a key problem with this mindset:

People don’t respond well to being told what they should value. If you need to educate people on the value of what you’re offering – then there’s a value imbalance. The pain is higher than the reward – so you’re not going to get the adoption you’re looking for without a hard company mandate. And even with a mandate, it’ll always be treated as an annoying, additional layer of ‘BS bureaucracy’.

However, people do like learning new ways to do things faster and more successfully. And so, rather than just looking for a plug and play framework – take a moment first to truly consider what you’re looking to achieve.

Positive behavioural change that actually helps them do their work better and more effectively.

Unfortunately this means that the challenge in front of you is harder. It’s not about just creating some templates.

Rather, it’s about creating something that is seen as valuable right away. Something simple, usable, and easily embedded into their day to day.

It’s either that or hire in an army of qualified practitioners to do it for them – no easy feat in the current labour market.