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29 Jul 2015

Bad news – adapting to change takes time

by Melanie Franklin

“I sold my car!” A real life story

Launching new ways of working is hard. All of the design, pilots, additional requirements and finally the go-live date is exhausting. Next comes the encouragement, reassurance and quick thinking to make adjustments that keep up the momentum? When the changes have been in place for weeks (or even months) you might think we could relax and hope that people have moved through their conscious incompetence stage. Not true – change doesn’t stop being change until it is ‘how we do things around here‘. To make this happen we have to wipe out the past and show the benefits of the new way of working. I just sold my car and realised the experience I went through is the same as for those being asked to accept new working practices.

Reverting to old behaviors

Organisations can push change along by getting rid of all the structures that underpinned the old ways of working because until these completely disappear there is always the risk that when people are feeling under pressure they will return to the old ways of working and the comfort of unconscious competence. One of my past clients used a Black Bag change policy where they went as far as clearing everyone’s desks of old branded mugs, pens, mouse mats etc so people would have to use the new corporate branding – obviously they provided replacements but you can see what they were getting at.

Pressure Points to watch out for

– Holiday periods when there are fewer colleagues to share the workload

– Regular but infrequent additional tasks such as financial year ends or semi-annual appraisals

– Launch of a new product or service when people feel under pressure and are looking to simplify their work.

“I sold my car – eventually”

The bad news is that most of us want to cling onto the past ‘just in case’ and are less likely to volunteer to get rid of user guides, applications and SOPs. In my house at the moment we are experiencing just this problem. Over the last year my husband has changed jobs and we have changed how we commute to work. We no longer need a car in London and have spent the last few months adapting to using the train. We have added apps to our smartphones to buy tickets and check train times. We have changed the bags we take to work and the amount of stuff we carry, as we used to have loads of spare shoes, books, magazines, dog leads and old coffee cups in our car! There are very powerful economic and time saving reasons for not using the car but…..our car has remained in the garage gathering dust. This is because while I have been comfortable getting used to the train I know that if anything goes wrong I know I can get in the car. This weekend we decided to finally get rid of the car with the tipping point being the annual car tax, MOT and insurance which acted as a reminder that we don’t need it any more. Funnily enough, once we made the decision, our outlook changed considerably – and for the positive. By releasing the old ways of working we could fully embrace the new.


As Change leaders, we are looked to help with the organisation accepting change. By acting as the moral compass and providing tough love with regards to helping staff accept the new ways of working, we provide real value add to the strategic direction of the business. Take a look at some of your own personal experiences of change then see how you can apply these to your own working environment – you will be amazed at how powerful this can be. Use this new confidence to help drive changes and make them stick.


Melanie Franklin
29th July 2015
Change Management