Home Tools Coaching Questions Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

Soliciting the Pre-Mortem and Riding the Change Curve: Coaching Tools, Strategies and Concepts for Effective Planning

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The Change Curve

At noted in the pre-mortem coaching questions I have proposed, there is a key dynamic element which I have identified as the change curve. When advocating any specific change in the life of a person or organization, we typically describe the positive outcomes that will attend this change—especially if we are optimists. A new accounting procedure will cut down on paperwork by twenty percent or a new patient intake procedure will significantly increase both staff and patient satisfaction. While these outcomes might realistically be expected of a successful change effort over a relatively long period of time, we must expect any change effort to have an initial impact that is deleterious with reference to the achievement of these outcomes. A change curve accompanies any attempt to improve a situation.

Let’s focus on a particular change curve—and assume that the change effort is ultimately successful, and that members of the organization are willing to wait out the initial drop off in productivity, morale and so forth. What actually occurs during this change curve phenomenon and why does it occur?

At the start of any change, the existing state of the person or organization holds several distinct advantages over the desired state.  First, everyone is familiar with the current state. They have confronted it, discovered how it works and, in most instances, come to terms with it, no matter how bad it is. No one will be caught by surprise. No new demands will be placed on anyone by new people or new situations.

Second, some organization theorists suggest that the current status of any system (person or organization) is, in some sense, meeting at least some of the needs (conscious or otherwise) of all members of the system—especially if the current system has remained relatively stable for some time. The mere fact that the present state is “rotten” serves the purpose, for example, of enabling one to excuse her own current, unsuccessful behavior.

We are all quite skillful at hiding behind the failures of other people or the organizations in which we work: “If only old George wasn’t my boss … or “If I could only get a job in a better managed company.” “I could finish this task if only this company had a decent personnel policy.” “We would be a terrific team in an organization that really cared about our work.” The current situation thus holds a distinct advantage over the desired change in that there are few unrealistic expectations about the current situation, whereas the desired change becomes the home for many misguided hopes and dreams, as well as some realistic expectations.

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