Oct 24, 2013

Lean champions must understand the psychological principles of change


In this blog, we have been looking at the psychological principles of change, as observed by anthropologists of many introductions of technologies that were new to isolated cultures. Because anthropologists don't participate in the change, they can distill conclusions that are more unbiased. The psychology of each individual is important to a group's response to change. Culture is derived from individual minds, decisions by individuals about whether to adopt a change or not.

To continue from the previous discussions of principles 1, 2, 3, and 4, here are a few more ideas on how people are affected by technological change:

5. A significant change in someone’s life introduces some instability or disharmony, which produces emotional tension. Old behaviors are part of the person’s sense of self. New situations require new behaviors. If people feel they don’t have the right skills, for example, it threatens self-esteem and may cause worry about keeping their jobs. Even changing shifts or working in a reconfigured workcell will have a psychological effect that the change champion be aware of.

6. Frustration accompanies tension when old beliefs and concepts of personal worth are incompatible with new practices. Even minor frustrations can add up to more serious problems. If people start believing that they can’t accomplish what is expected of them, change efforts can be derailed. While some tension can help people learn and grow, they need resources and support in order to become more at ease with the new.

  • When women took on factory work during World War II, manufacturing supervisors had to adapt to working with them. After the men came back from the war, women were sent home to be housewives again. The psychology of most manufacturing leaders prevented them from seeing that these women employees were as valuable as men. (Wikimedia Commons image)
7. When frustration is persistent or intense, the physical and psychological health of some individuals may be impaired. The signs that someone may be struggling may take the form of anger, withdrawal, illness, or even sabotage. Distress affects a person’s ability to learn, and can make it appear that he or she is simply unable or unwilling to learn new methods and concepts. These potential consequences, at greater or lesser degrees, make it important to identify and resolve frustrating conditions, behave with respect, recognize individual differences, and provide encouragement and support.

When change champions take time to understand the workplace culture and the people who will experience the change before introducing disruption, they can adapt their message for that specific group of people. More importantly, they can adapt themselves. Mutual understanding leads to trust.

Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm