People are overloaded with information and change. The mailbox is filled with memos about why they need to change. Every white space on the wall is covered with communications about the latest initiatives. Every free hour is claimed for live or video communication on important topics. And all this on top of all the other work and information people receive every day. There is no mental space left for more….
This means that we need to change our approach to change itself, to deal with this limited attention span and help people make change as easy and valuable as possible.
I happened to read this quote from Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, yesterday, that made me think:
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying ‘I don’t want to’.
Many people who are very busy will absolutely disagree with this, because they say they really don’t have time. That’s possible. But often it is also about lack of priority, or lack of cognitive space and attention. The statement “I don’t have time” is more often a red herring or excuse for not paying attention to something than a real lack of time.
However, it is important in organizational change to dwell on the reality that people often don’t have time or think so. We can say from the sidelines, “make time, set your priorities, reduce the time you spend on useless things. However, that is usually a long-term work for which there is not always the space during an organizational change, or it is the subject of a transformation in itself.
Little usually happens with the comment that people don’t have time. The shoulders are shrugged of ‘well, they don’t have time again, they don’t want to’. As in the quote from Lao Tzu. But maybe they do want it, but don’t know it yet. Or they don’t want ‘it’, but ‘it’ is not the change itself, but something else. Resistance to change has several causes.
I think this framework covers pretty well the types of resistance you can encounter and it provides a basis for addressing the core of resistance. Resistance plays out on three possible levels according to Rick Maurer:
1. Level of cognition: “I don’t understand”
2. Level of emotion: “I don’t want this”
3. Level of trust: “I don’t trust it/you.”
Yet, based on my experience with change programs, I would like to add one level to this list, let’s think of it as Ground Zero:
0. Level of focus: “I don’t have the mental space for this.”
This is the level under which a large part of the comments in the form of “I don’t have time” therefore also fall and are best paid attention to separately.
The ‘no time’ objection is therefore something to seriously consider when shaping your change plans:
The question is, for your organizational change, isn’t it best to always start from the premise that employees and managers don’t have time, attention or priority, so that you are always looking for the most efficient and valuable way to achieve a good result? In any case, it’s a good start that your ears start itching when you hear once again that someone has no time and that you don’t just scratch the surface and move on, but that you get to the heart of the matter and help people with no time.
Originally published at https://www.changedesigners.eu on April 14, 2021.