Digital Transformation

“Follow the Leader” and Its Role in Successful Change Management

shutterstock_201679847_350Last week while vacationing with my family at the beach, I came face-to-face with one of the most effective Change Management principles – people will follow the “right” people.

You see, I don’t like crowds – whether it is in an airport, out at a park, or walking down a busy city street. I just don’t like them. Well, the same holds for the kitchen in the beach house! There’s nothing like trying to get to the refrigerator to get the ingredients and condiments to make sandwiches for my wife, three kids and me, the appropriate utensils, the chips, and of course, the drinks, all while trying to navigate five other extended family members who are doing exactly the same thing at precisely the same time. I don’t care how efficient you try to be; it’s a grueling process that I’m ready for a vacation by the end of.

Here’s the thing: It didn’t matter what time I started making lunch or what anyone else was doing prior to that (except NOT making lunch), but as soon as I began the task in the empty kitchen, it was like flies on honey. If I made lunch at noon, the crowd would gather. If I waited until almost 2:00 pm, the same thing! And again, it didn’t matter what these other folks were doing before making sandwiches (often it was reading a book in a rocking chair overlooking the ocean), they would simply be pulled, evidently by some mysterious force, to fix their lunches at precisely the same time I did. By the end of the week, I was going mad!

But it also made me think about effective Change Management, and more specifically, how people tend to gravitate towards what others are doing, especially if those others are well respected within an organization. Now, I’m not sure how well-respected I am in my family, but I will say others naturally gravitated towards what I was doing when I was doing it when it came to making lunch.

When we implement change initiatives on our projects, think about the impact of getting the right, early adopters on board and functioning in the “new way of life.” If we can get these important people bought into our solution, others will naturally follow, and many without being told or convinced to do so (I didn’t tell ANYONE I was going to make lunch or that they should come join me – it just happened).

Whoa, did I just say that people will adopt a new solution without any “Change Management?” Yes! There are always some that will want to be a part of the crowd, the “new thing,” or simply just want to be a part of what others are doing. Take advantage of them! Then beyond that, how much more successful will we be when we perform our normal Change Management activities capture the rest of our target audience? I think you’ll be surprised!

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David Chapman

David is the General Manager for Perficient's Organizational Change Management practice, part of the Strategic Advisors Team. He has over twenty years of consulting experience and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Be sure to also check out David’s personal blog. It focuses on collaboratively building the breadth and depth of our collective change management knowledge based on insights and experiences shared to help one another grow.

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