Change and a Change In Habit

In 1982 I was given the NCSU basketball clock you see in this picture. Since then it has been my primary source of "knowing what time it is" when in a room. From the home where I grew up to three different dorm rooms, an apartment, three different houses and now my office, it has never failed me, except when there was a need to replace the battery.

Last week the clock finally stopped working. The strange thing was that I kept looking to the clock to tell me the time. Even though I knew it no longer worked, my eyes would frequently glance to its face. It wasn't just the clock, it was the location of the clock that caused me to look in that direction. Finally, in frustration, I found another clock to put in its place so that I could still see the time in the same location.

We are tremendous creatures of habit. Once we find a system, process or habit that works, we stick with it, and usually only change when forced to do so (like me). It's this desire to keep things the same that we also should remember when leading change. In fact, there are several questions we should ask related to habits when we are charged with leading or simply managing a change. They include:

  • What individual or group work habits will be affected by this change?
  • How ingrained are these habits? Who will likely have the most difficulty changing their work routine to meet the requirements of the change?
  • Are there smaller elements of this work habit that will not change? (I.E. I can still look for the time in the same place. It's just a different clock.) What's our plan to emphasize that in our communications?

Habits are hard to break. Looking at the change from the perspective of those whose daily habits will be affected is key to insuring they will  still give you "the time of day" as you move through the change.