Change management is a hot topic these days in the accounting world. As our industry heats up with technology and we climb the innovation and technology curve, there is no way you can say we are still in the early, early phase of adopting things like artificial intelligence and cloud technology but it is still early days. With more and more people joining, this drives the discussion of how to manage change for the people that well, frankly just don’t want to change.
There is always speculation about why. Are they afraid they will lose their job? Are they afraid they won’t know how or will look stupid? Are they overwhelmed and don’t have time? Do they just think it’s a fad and won’t really catch on? Are they at the end of their career and really don’t want to have to learn another entirely different method of managing business?
Every person is going to have a different reason for dragging their feet up that hill and if you are one of the people leading the charge, trying to pull people up with you, it’s in your best interest to spend a little time trying to understand how to relate to and motivate people to change.
Last night we had a hot discussion about this at a meetup group I’m involved in. Two main theories came out of this. The what’s in it for me theory. That is, people don’t change unless they know what is in it for them. This makes sense to me, people need to know why they are changing, and that is going to in some way benefit them and what they are doing. Otherwise, why would they do it? Some people love change and are excited about it, they are not the people you have to motivate for change, they are the people beside you as early adopters.
The second theory is one I also adhere to, and that is, that people will change when staying the same becomes too painful. This sort of ties into the what’s in it for me (WIFM), in that if you can make the WIFM appealing enough, it makes the pain of staying the same seem harsher in comparison. At any rate, people change to move away from pain or towards pleasure so these two ideas are an expression of that theory. People that are reluctant to change, in my experience, have to have the pain of staying in the same place increased in order to move away from the pain.
This is because there is something about not changing that is actually benefiting them. Think about it. Why else wouldn’t people change? It doesn’t make sense. There HAS to be a benefit to staying the same, even if from the outside it appears as if it’s more painful to stay the same. If you can have a discussion and find out what your employee/client/friend is gaining from staying the same, you will find the block to change.
I, of course, being a Scorpio, and a bit of a sadist at heart was all for turning up the pain so that it just naturally overrode whatever benefit they might have been getting by not changing. That might have been because it was the end of a long day though. I also want to clarify that by turning up the pain, I don’t mean physical pain, or even inflicting abusive emotional pain. I merely mean, continuing with your plans for change and your life, according to what is important to you, which may very well cause discomfort for those around you.
You have to decide how important the change you are making is in your life and how important it is to you that they make it. If it doesn’t matter whether this person makes the change or not, then if they don’t want to, leave them be. You can never force someone to change and you may have to be prepared to fire an employee that refuses to make a change, or end a relationship with someone that refuses to change. Being angry because someone refuses to change isn’t fair to them or to you. They have their reasons, and although you may not understand them, the reasons are valid to them and we need to honour and respect that, as well as treat that person with kindness.
So there you go, in a nutshell, two very important theories on change and how to motivate people to do it. Find out what they are gaining from staying the same and find a way to provide that benefit another way, or turn up the pain so it outweighs that benefit.
Now go out there and be good.