Why do most of the advice not work? And why do changes fail?
This morning I got an email with the title, “Four great practices to killing procrastination” I don't want to criticise this particular article; the market is like this, if you have this problem, this practice will solve it. But Why does most of the time, this fancy advice not work? And Why do changes fail?
A manager wants to be a more effective decision-maker, and A scrum master wants to be an influential scrum master; Lily wishes to manage her work effectively…
The challenge to change is often misunderstood as a need to better “deal with” or “cope with” a problem. On the contrary, coping and dealing involve adding new skills or widening our repertoire of responses. We are the same person we were before we learned to cope; we have added some new resources. We have learned, but we have not necessarily developed. This approach to problem-solving is called technical problem-solving.
I was reading “Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organisation” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, and I found this great answer the problem is in formulating the problem. According to Ronald Heifetz, the single biggest failure in change and improvement is treating adaptive challenges like technical problems and applying technical solutions.
Adaptive challenges VS Technical problems
Technical challenges are not necessarily easy, nor are their results necessarily insignificant. Learning how to land an aeroplane with a stuck nose wheel is an example of largely technical challenges, and their accomplishment is undoubtedly important.
However, many of the change challenges you face today require something more than incorporating new skills. These are the “adaptive challenges” and can only be met by transforming your mindset.
So, for example, you are coaching a leader, and in your sessions with him, you help him to come up with this goal, “As an agile leader, I want to be more open to delegating and supporting new lines of authority to the team”. You can ask this question, too, “On a scale of 1–10, How committed are you to achieving this goal?”, He might say 9 or 10. sounds good, and we need an action plan and a concert solution that helps him to achieve his goal. At this stage, it will be easy to jump to a solution; for example, let’s give a go to the delegation board or Eisenhower matrix.
But this challenge is not a technical problem; he can not achieve his goal only by learning a delegation technique. This leader has a clear objective “As an agile leader, I want to be more open to delegating and supporting new lines of authority to the team”, and he is 100% committed to this goal. Still, on the other hand, he has some hidden and competing commitments too(that he is partially or entirely unaware of them) — commitments that hold him captive in their thrall and compete with his stated goals.
For example, in this case, the leader has a hidden competing commitment: “He is committed to preserving his sense of himself as the super problem solver, the one who knows best, the one who is in control”. So, if you ignore this underlying commitment and suggest a technical solution for this adaptive challenge, it will be failed. This failure is not just about your leader is not committed to his goal; it fails to occur because he is a living contradiction as if a picture of you with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.
So, the first step for any change is to surface and discover these hidden competing commitments, especially those we are unaware. When we make a new year’s resolution, we look at the behaviours we seek to extinguish as bad; we look at the behaviours we want to amplify as good. But until we understand the commitments that make the obstructive behaviours at the same time brilliantly effective, we haven’t correctly formulated the problem. Einstein said the formulation of the problem is as important as the solution.
Don’t hesitate to share your experience in helping your clients
1- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organisation”- Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey