Over a century ago, the philosopher Guillaume Ferrero proposed that humans operate on the Principle of Least Effort: given several paths, we pick the easiest; more recently, Harvard psychologist Shawn Anchor suggested that the behavior we choose is the one that’s just 20 seconds easier to start—Harvard Business Review. Given this human tendency, it is surprising how difficult organizations tend to make things for employees in order to effect change: don’t check your social media or you’ll be reprimanded; get along with the rest or you’ll be transferred; meet your sales target, or else. While rules may get people to adhere to a certain standard of behavior by force, lasting change can only be achieved if the change process is internalized. By making change as easy as possible for people, organizations are encouraging internalization thus effecting lasting change as a result.
Click on the image below to read more examples of simplifying change at HBR.
People have essentially large inertia to change. We have all experienced this, from taking cheat days between watching what we eat to taking extra breaks between work, convinced that we need them. While it is reasonable to attempt to “police” these exceptions, we know that performance actually increases when exceptions are explicitly built into the change system. Exceptions humanizes the change process and makes change easier. If your organization is struggling to make inroads at changing a particular aspect of your business, try experimenting from another angle: identify the pain points that people are saying “no” to change and make it easier for them, no matter how insignificant the pain points may seem.