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The Emotional Side of Human Beings in Rational Organizations

When implementing change programs four conditions are necessary for employees to change their behaviours:
a) Storyline – employees must understand the reason for the change and agree with it;
b) Role modelling – employees must see the leadership team behaving in the new way;
c) Reinforcing mechanisms – systems, processes and incentives must be aligned with the new behaviour;
d) Capability building – employees must have the skills required to make the desired changes.
It seems simply good common sense, but this is exactly where things start going wrong. Rational organizations who attempt to implement the four conditions by applying “common sense” typically disregard certain, sometimes emotional but predictable, elements of human nature. Here below some insights into how human nature gets in the way of applying the four conditions required for behavioural change.


What motivates leaders doesn’t necessarily motivate employees?

There are two types of change stories consistently told by leaders in organizations. The first is the “good to great” story, the second is the “turnaround” story. These stories are both rational and quite often they fail to have the expected impact. When employees are asked what motivates them at work the answer is usually among the following impact:

What leaders tend to communicate does not usually tap into the workforce’s motivators for putting extra energy into the change program. Leaders have to craft a change story that covers the aspects that motivate employees. In doing so, they can free up positive energy that would otherwise remain latent in the organization.

Role modelling

Usually change management programs suggest leaders role model the desired change and mobilize a group of ambassadors or influencers to drive change deep into the organization. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily deliver the desired impact.

Reinforcing mechanisms

Change management programs emphasize the importance of reinforcing and embedding desired changes in structures, processes, systems, target settings, and incentives. To be effective, however, these mechanisms must consider the emotional side of people.

Capability building

Change management programs emphasize the importance of building the skills and talent needed for the desired change. Though hard to argue with, in practice good intentions are not enough.


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