Whilst the song may say that “Love is in the air..” my experience talking with CEO’s and business people is that “Change is in the air..” – not so catchy and certainly not as well embraced. The result of this is that we have spawned Change Managers, Change Programs and Organisational transformations.
So why is change so hard? Try writing with your non-preferred hand, brush your hair with your non-preferred hand, learn a new language or how to ski – how did it feel? I still remember learning to ride a motorcycle in my late 30’s (an early mid-life crisis or because I am early adopter?) and finding the throttle control took a bit of getting used to as well as balancing 200kg of bike and rider at low speeds.
Change requires us to establish new patterns for behaviour and the process takes time, persistence and a desire to push through to master the skill so that it once again becomes a subconscious capability. It has been suggest there are four levels in the “Conscious Competence” model (see below or click the link).
The origins of this model are uncertain but potentially goes as far back as Confucius – so it’s not a recent problem! The model examines both consciousness and competence. As you move from 1 to 4 your skill level improves to a point where, for example, you can drive a car, indicate, brake, depress the clutch, change gears and listen to the radio, think about the next holiday you want to go on and arrive home with a few “blank spots” where you can’t really recall driving (in detail).
|Conscious||3 – conscious competencethe person achieves ‘conscious competence’ in a skill when they can perform it reliably at will
the person will need to concentrate and think in order to perform the skill
the person will not reliably perform the skill unless thinking about it – the skill is not yet ‘second nature’ or ‘automatic’
the person should ideally continue to practise the new skill, and if appropriate commit to becoming ‘unconsciously competent’ at the new skill
practise is the single most effective way to move from stage 3 to 4
|2 – conscious incompetencethe person becomes aware of the existence and relevance of the skill and is therefore also aware of their deficiency
ideally by attempting or trying to use the skill
the person realises that by improving their skill or ability in this area their effectiveness will improve
the person ideally makes a commitment to learn and practice the new skill, and to move to the ‘conscious competence’ stage
|Unconscious||4 – unconscious competencethe skill becomes so practised that it enters the unconscious parts of the brain – it becomes ‘second nature’
common examples are driving, sports activities, typing, manual dexterity tasks, listening and communicating
it becomes possible for certain skills to be performed while doing something else, for example, knitting while reading a book
the person might now be able to teach others in the skill
the skill has become largely instinctual
|1 – unconscious incompetencethe person is not aware of;
the existence or relevance of the skill area or
that they have a particular deficiency in the area
the person must become conscious of their incompetence before development of the new skill or learning can begin
If we understand change can be difficult for staff then we can approach the challenge differently. If the culture has built trust between staff and management it will go a long way to working with people about the change. Getting involvement from staff about the change, educating and getting their feedback are all critical in understanding and helping people through change – think like a personal trainer – firm but supportive – motivating, praising any improvements and focus on efforts at the early stage. People need time, training, support and encouragement to develop new skills.
Helping employees understand that these are the normal responses to change and that with persistence and help from their company they will develop new skills, grow and benefit and not to fear the change are the conversations companies need to have with staff.
In an interesting attack on a lack of change Matt Cutts, a Google employee, spoke about different 30-day challenges he has undertaken to generate change in his life.
Perhaps we could all improve our receptiveness to change and get more out of life by taking on more of these 30 day challenges!