Change Management: How to bring your people on board the rocket
The antidote to fear
Commander Chris Hadfield is arguably one of the most famous astronauts today. He was the first Canadian in space, flew two Space Shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station (ISS). In total, he has spent 166 days in space. During his last mission on the ISS, he became particularly well-known for his photography of Earth from the ISS, and also for his rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, performed on the space station.
Once during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, a Redditor asked him a question that astronauts get asked frequently: When you’re sitting in that rocket or that shuttle, and you are waiting for that incredible acceleration as all those highly flammable fuels is unleashed into the power rocket motors to thrust you into speed at almost 30 times the speed of sound—aren’t you afraid?
This was his response:
“By the time I am listening to the countdown get to single digits I have been trained for countless hours on every single emergency procedure and I have a deep understanding of everything that could go wrong and what the crew could do in each instance. That knowledge takes away the fear.”
Humans don’t like change
Today, more than ever in the history of humanity, we understand that the only constant to our world is changing. Nothing stays the same—and if it does, it will almost instantly become obsolete.
But most organisations are powered by humans. And most humans don’t particularly like change. Just ask Coca-Cola. In 1985 they introduced a new formulation of the world’s most popular soda, and they called it New Coke. But the reaction of the public was so severe that within months they had to retreat. Or monitor social media anytime any of the big platforms introduce a subtle change in their user-interface design.
People don’t like change.
In 1949, Austrian thinker, philosopher, and economist, Ludwig Von Mises wrote a famous treatise called Human Action. In it, he describes three requirements that need to be fulfilled in order for human beings to act toward change. These requirements are as relevant and acknowledged today as they were when it was written.
So how do you help people deal with change in your organisation?
Here are some tips and tricks that could help you fulfill Von Mises’ requirements:
Clearly define the Big Opportunity
Make sure your Opportunity is framed in a purposeful way
Too often we look at situations in a superficial way. We deal with the what and the how instead of answering the most crucial question: the why. For more on this, see Simon Sinek’s excellent primer on his Start With Why premise.
Set smaller goals along the way
Be clear on what is wrong with staying in the same place
If we empower our people with knowledge, we can help them overcome their fear of change. If we do it in a structured way, then we can systematically bring them onboard our rocket ship and take them to the stars.
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