Change management

Hawthorne Effect

One tool for minimizing the downward spike of the Change Curve involves capitalizing on the Hawthorne Effect.  Management scientists found that increased attention alone improves performance even if only temporarily.  Daily and hourly progress reports, increased MBWA/CBWA (management by wandering around/communication by wandering around), setting initial low goals to reinforce accomplishments, awards and recognition to celebrate milestone goals, achieving goals, ceremonies to kick off change—putting change on center stage with drama and pizzazz provides a countering upward force.  The Hawthorne Effect will flatten the downward spike of the Change Curve.  A word of warning is appropriate, however: increased attention alone is not enough.  Studies indicate that productivity often drops when the increased attention is withdrawn.  Taking advantage of the Hawthorne Effect is an important tool, but is only one of the tools for managing change.

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Change Groups

Change Groups are one of the most successfully used management tools.  Forming groups (of those to be affected by the change) to help plan and implement change creates ownership and commitment to it.  It becomes their change rather than change being forced on them and thus helps to flatten the downward spike of the Change Curve and reduce its duration.  One of the most important roles of a Change Group involves planning the content and form for getting the required “new information” in the hands of those who will need it—training programs, instruction manuals, KASH books,  one-on-one training,  buddy systems, temporary or permanent help desks, etc.  There are few changes so small that their impact justifies ignoring the need for change management, and virtually all change involving multiple people will benefit from the use of Change Groups.  Consider the impact of installing a new telephone system or something as simple as bringing in a new copy machine.  A little advance planning, disseminating the right knowledge in the right form to the right people, ceremonialism, recognizing accomplishments, paying attention to it—can pay big dividends in terms of achieving the desired benefit without costly disruption and frustration.

Of the four elements of KASH (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, and Habit), Attitude is the most difficult to manage.  A negative attitude, resistance to change, is reduced when people 1) understand the characteristics of the Change Curve and the basics of change management and 2) when they become part of the change process.  One of the functions of leadership is education.  That should include continuously reinforcing the organization's understanding of the Two Certainties in life and business—change is constant and we are always judge by others.  If change is constant everyone in the organization must understand the Change Curve and the important tools for change management.
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Music City is under attack from Mother Nature, the historic 2010 Nashville flood.
  A beautiful lawyer's inheritance is at risk.
An extraordinary cache of old wines is threatened.
  A new Mark Rollins mystery by author Tom Collins.

Slot Machine Management

One of the wrong ways to make change is characterized by Slot Machine Management—the slot machine manager makes frequent changes similar to a compulsive gambler repeatedly pulling the arm of a slot machine hoping that that next pull will be a winner.

Change is essential for the long-term success of a business. Without change, success doesn’t happen.  Yet the paradox is that the failure of management to understand change and competently manage it is high on the list of reasons businesses fail—not merely small businesses or new businesses.  Well established businesses often fall victim to the lack of a corporate memory.  Each generation of management tends to relearn the mistakes of prior generations.  While their sheer size insulates giant corporations from disappearing altogether, they can wind up on the dustbin of wannabes—companies that are no longer in the leadership positions they once held.  The culprit is often a slot machine approach.  IBM is one example.  There was a period of time when the company reorganized frequently—shifting managers to new rolls and specialties before they had become competent in their current assignments.  They realigned their sales force every six to twelve months—changing industry assignments, making regional and division assignments, etc.  Each reorganization (each pull of the one-armed bandit) rendered the company less successful and less competitive, symptoms of Slot Machine Management.

As performance goes south, the slot machine manager reacts by implementing more change to stem the fall in performance.  In effect the gambler reaches up and pulls the slot machine handle with the hope that maybe this time he will hit the jackpot rather than lemons.  That precipitates another fall in results and more changes by management, spiraling the company down to lower and lower results.


In 2010 Music City suffered a great flood.  Nashville streets were turned into streams and the streams into raging killing zones.  That is the setting for my newest novel, The Claret Murders, available on for $15.99 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook and through iTunes for the iPad.