Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Adoption of Change

For the fear of Kaavya[1], I would like to upfront acknowledge the following paraphrased quote is not mine: “When asked about the sameness of routine that they go through, most people admitted would like to see change in them. At the same time, if you ask any organization, you would hear change management is the most challenging aspect of their business. So what is the paradox here? It is NOT that people do NOT want change; it is just that they do NOT like being changed”.

So given that most people do like changing and would like to, so what is that mindset that make adoption of change easier ? This could be best served yet another anecdote. I used to work with someone who told me a story of how he got booked by police while driving at 50 miles per hour in a zone that had speed limit of 30. This was in the US. As a penalty for the offence and to save negative points in his insurance, he chose to attend the 8 hour training class, instead of getting a ticket. If someone had attended this training, they can really tell you what a torture it is – they just sit you up and bore with you on all the road rules, and why one needs to follow them etc. At the end of the class, he believed that he would never again drive over the speed limit. Then after a while, once the memory (of the painful) training faded and he sensed no cops around, he found himself speeding over the limits again. So, when he actually introspected, he got the answer; he would actually would not stay within the speed limit, if the only thing that stops him is the fear of getting booked – when there is no cop, he will drive over the speed limit; but if he goes a bit deeper and understand why the speed limit exists and the implications that he can put his life and some other life in harms way if he exceeds the limit, is when he actually starts driving within the speed limit. This is where the internalization for the need to change his behaviour dawned on him.

Generalizing the above anecdote, when we apply ‘policing’ to ensure that behavioral change or adherence to the situation happens, then the act of adherence or changed behavior exists only until the policing is applied. We see it all around examples of this in India – how the traffic rules are flouted when police is not around, how laws generally are bent to suit one needs – this also has an implicit message; that policing does not lend to a sustainable change. I believe this is the same with the organizational changes driven by metric or stricter management reviews alone. However, at the same time, I’m not against the need for policing – there are times when policing helps; for an initial understanding, for leading people to experience the change – it gives the new law (or old laws, in case of India) or the new behaviour a chance to succeed; particularly, for people who are unable to think conceptually and need to experience the fruits of change. Or in places like Singapore – where a sustained policing through couple of generations have ingrained such a change/mindset in people’s DNA (however I’m not certain, given the globalization of information, if it is sustainable). For me this is one way of ensuring change – the Deterrent way.

The alternate way of adoption of change (or adherence to law) is by internalization within ones mind. One truly understands why a change to a new situation or a law is required: one can conceptualize in his or her mind as to why a certain action is required and is in complete harmony with it. They are the people who can actually see the reason of whys rather than dwell on the action of hows. In the speeding example above, the internalization of need for behaviour had come about, since this person understood that why part of it (not endangering any lives) rather than how part of it (keep within the speed-limit). Sometimes, this kind of internalization also serves to do what is right in grey zones rather than doing what is required by law or what is current norm. This is where some of the transformation starts; and some revolutions too. People who can conceptualize the need and can actually visualize the end-state and adopt change through this route are leaders in thought and in action. The path to this internalization could be through experiential or by purely by thought process. The change is much easier and sustainable over a longer period of time, if change is walked on this route. I call this, the Cognizant change.

So, do we expect every change to be Cognizant? Yes, I believe for it to be sustainable over a multitude and over multiple time-periods, it has to be Cognizant. (I wonder if this is the only place, where the "Cognitive" change, is also driven by "Affective" understanding) However, I believe, our starting point for adopting a change could be Deterrent. But sooner (than later), it has to move to zone of cognizance and probably, end up being Affective, as the final state. I believe. It is simple reality of laws of nature – we cannot hold anything or anyone in a state of order for long against its free will. Water cannot be kept in the ice-form without expending energy. When the energy is taken away, it does return to its natural form. Only place the water stays in its changed form, ice is where everything in the ecosystem is lending itself to support that form of existence – in the mountain peaks, in the poles and inside the freezer at full blast in a refrigerator – that becomes the natural state of existence; cognizant of its morphed state in a ecosystem in equilibrium. But more of that in an other essay.
Cognition (/kognish’n/ )
• noun the mental acquisition of knowledge through thought, experience, and the senses.
Deterrent (/diterrnt/ )
• noun a thing that deters or is intended to deter.
Deter (/diter/) • verb (deterred, deterring)
1 discourage from doing something through fear of the consequences. 2 prevent the occurrence of.

1. of, caused by, or expressing emotion or feeling; emotional.
2. causing emotion or feeling.
Coming Soon:
2. After Change Adoption, what?
3. From Personal adoption to an ecosystem adoption, is it easy ?
4. But Change is Constant, isn’t it?

Foot Notes:
[1] For the context, a google search on Kaavya Vishwanathan would yield several results
[2] From


Anonymous said...

good. looking forward to the next instalments, k.

Anonymous said...

Knowing the way you operate, it was pleasure to hear you talk of cognisant change.
Most of the time you are in the deterent phase or maybe teh organisation deserves that:-))