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Change management is very much like boiling a frog

When you want to boil a frog, you don’t put on a pan of boiling water and drop the frog in as it will immediately jump out and can be difficult to catch afterwards.

What you do is to put on a pan of warm water, put the frog in it and put it on a burner set at medium. The water heats up gradually, the frog gets comfortable and sleepy and…..     

When you want to make changes in your company, the strategy is often very similar. People don’t like change and have a tendency to imagine everything to the worst possible conclusion, so showing them the end result at the outset is seldom a good idea.

Rather than show the end result, formulate a plan that gets there in stages; show them stage one and let them get comfortable with it. Then introduce stage two and so on until you reach the conclusion you had always intended.

I had decided that I needed to bring in a senior manager as an addition to my management team and needed to move my technical director from his office in the front to a less-desirable one closer to his direct reports in the back. I knew that I would meet resistance so planned it out in phases.

Phase one was to outline what I saw as the issues we were facing and the gaps in our team and ask them for recommendations. Part of those recommendations, I knew, would be for people to be situated closer to their direct reports. When that came up, I said that I agreed and suggested that we would need to reconfigure the offices. Since most of this really revolved around the technical director, I put him in charge of the project.

I allowed some time to pass, and not much happened. Then I returned to the subject and suggested a budget to make the project work. At this point I also suggested the idea of hiring another member of the management team and said that the work already done would yield an unexpected office to accommodate him.

If I had simply said “I’m hiring someone and I need your office” it would have led to resentment. This way it was already in the works and was merely accelerated by the “new” decision.