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Change management – tapping into the sub-conscious brain of an organisation

Those of you who are familiar with NLP will like this:

The ‘external’ aspects of an organisation are: its structure, policies, processes, governance, budgets, efficiency etc… These can be seen, defined, mapped, measured, changed and improved.

The ‘internal’ aspects of an organisation are: its culture, people’s attitudes and concerns, values, informal knowledge sharing etc… These are far harder to get at and therefore more difficult to change.

Change management supposedly concerns itself with the internal aspects, with the purpose of empowering people to make change happen.  But too often it actually focuses on the external aspects, seeking to control the changes by designing and implementing a ‘change programme’: consultation, training and targeting. The more complex a project, the more this approach doesn’t work. Compliance and take-up is poor and benefits don’t get realised. 

In trying to find a way to explain this to project managers who don’t see the difference between project change control and change management (or choose not to), I stumbled upon the following analogy: 

In NLP we say ‘the conscious brain doesn’t drive behaviour – it’s the sub-conscious brain’. And if we want to effect a change in behaviour, we need to reach the sub-conscious brain. So if you say you want to give up smoking, or lose weight, or overcome your fear of snakes,  or hights, or public speaking, an NLP practitioner knows it’s no good talking to you sensibly and rationally, telling you why you should change. You have probably told yourself a thousand times already and it didn’t work. What is needed is to get your conscious brain out of the way and have a dialogue with your sub-conscious brain.  Hypnosis is often a good way to achieve this.

Well, the same goes for organisations!  It’s not the conscious organisational ‘brain’ – the external aspects, that need to be addressed. It’s the sub-conscious brain, the way people feel about working in the organisation, their confidence in their role and relationships, the levels of trust and respect and concern they have for each other and, in the end, their commitment to making things work better.

So the kind of change management I mean, needs to operate at this emotional and sometimes apparently irrational level. And while I do not advocate hypnosis – although it would be interesting! – we do need to use similar, ‘internally’-focused, techniques …such as inspiring, involving, empowering… to get the conscious brain out of the way and appeal to people’s inner selves, their instincts and their creativity.

Its a thought, isnt it!

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February 8, 2010 - Posted by | business change management | , , , , , , ,

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