Heat or Light?

Some people change when they see the light;
others when they feel the heat

This concept gets at the heart of change management which is about using the best approach for the person to help them change.  Some people need to be persuaded with the heat of consequences while others need to see the positive future that inspires them to change. The best approach is dependent on the person or group that is being asked to change.
Since change is the transition from a current state to a future state (from the ACMP Standard for Change Management ©) the critical question is, “how to accomplish the transition?” Not all transition is the same and not all transition needs to move at the same pace.
Tips for using light and heat:

  • Know your audience – who needs to change and what motivates them? Tailor your messages and your change approach to meet their needs, not yours.
  • Understand the transition – is it a big one or a small one? Does it need to happen fast or can it move at a more relaxed pace? Depending upon the answers it may be appropriate to change the ratio of light and heat.
  • Define success – does the transition need to be sustained? As the story below illustrates, forced change often creates resistance. People may comply with the change externally, but internally they are “wrapping their coats around them to protect themselves.”

The North Wind and the Sun 
The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes.  The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do.  The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth.  The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.
The moral of this story…Persuasion is better than Force.
When you need to create change consider light and heat and use them to inspire people to change as well as help them feel the consequences of not changing. It’s better to use these persuasion techniques than force.

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