Inspiration can come from anywhere: I was watching Sid the Science Kid on PBS with my 3-year-old son, and the lesson from the episode was how when you cook most foods, they can’t be uncooked. You can’t uncook an egg or a pancake, you can’t unsauce apples, and you can’t unroast marshmallows. The show even included a song called “Cooking is Chemistry” that featured the lyrics, “It’s irreversible change!” As usual, it got me thinking…
One of the common challenges to change is making it stick. Sometimes it’s easy to get people to try something new, but it’s difficult to get them to keep doing it. How do you make the new way “the way we do things around here?”
I’ve seen two ways this happens:
Someone with authority decides it will be so.
I don’t mean that someone waves his fist and makes it happen. It’s not about force but about focus. Someone whose attention is wanted focuses their attention on the new way of doing things. For example, if the transformation includes making more data-driven decisions, then the CEO (or equivalent authority figure) should insist on having the data when someone asks for a decision, and should constantly ask about and talk about the data that decisions are based on.
This method will take some time, but with increased awareness and focus and a willingness to make corrections when someone goes off course, change will happen.
The old way is eliminated.
The easiest example I have for this is a software implementation where the old software is removed from service and can no longer be accessed. You need a self-imposed Y2K to keep people from going back to the old way. For something other than an IT implementation, the old way might be a procedure, or a regular meeting, a policy, an Excel file, etc. It is tempting to keep the old way just in case – but it also allows for going backward when the going gets tough.
Eliminate the last vestiges of the old way so the focus and energy is on making the new way work. As I learned on Sid the Science Kid, you can’t uncook it if it is fundamentally altered.
Inquiry: What would it mean to cook your change?