High performance organizations have learned, like Birchbox, that changing behavior is a major element in innovation and achieving break through results. They realize there are two major sets of barriers to change - obstacles and objections. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), nine out of ten of the key barriers to the success of change programs are people related. Here are three critical lessons we’ve learned through multiple change initiatives:
- Obstacles are easy to see and identify. People typically articulate obstacles by saying something like, “I can’t make that change because ‘you’ have not done or provided ______” (fill in the blank). Obstacles are usually tangible things like time, resources, training, documentation, etc. Responsibility is solely placed on the leader or process owner to fix these obstacles before change can proceed. People try to maintain their current behaviors until the perfect solution and ‘all’ obstacles are eliminated.
- Objections, on the other hand, are less overt. They are typically exhibited – not by words but by attitude and behavior that send the strong message – “I don’t want to change the way I currently do it.” It’s here where personal beliefs, priorities, authority, and behavior are challenged. Objectives are powerful - can wreck change initiatives – and create distractions & execution waste.
- Behavior change goes through multiple phases including compliance, commitment, and finally creation of a new norm. A cultural ‘pinch point’ occurs between the commitment phase (some people doing the desired organizational behavior - some of the time) and the norm creation phase (everyone doing it all of the time). It’s a ‘pinch point’ because many people figuratively say “OUCH” – my personal behavior must change and it doesn’t feel good to me.
Real culture change takes place by pushing through the pain of the cultural pinch point. It happens when organizations pro-actively address those individuals (employees and leaders) who only superficially embrace the desired change. It’s when desired behavior change is no longer optional, nice to do, or only done when it’s convenient.
So unless both change obstacles and objections are acknowledged, assessed, and actively worked on - great ideas, initiatives, and strategies fall short of their potential. Birchbox has been described as “redefining the beauty and lifestyle products retail process”. Part of their success has been through changing behaviors. Bet your success is too!