Moving from a culture of compliance to a culture of involvement is a very tough step for leaders. The steps leading from Involvement to Excitement are a little easier but still require some heavy lifting from leaders.

What sorts of things get people excited? Answering that depends a lot on the individual, but generally, the most excited folks I’ve ever seen are sports fans when their teams are winning. Winning in almost any kind of endeavor will have a positive affect on the people experiencing the win. It builds confidence as well, and that has a huge impact on our willingness to participate in the things related to a change initiative.

Winning is very closely associated with competition, so a lot of people think we should set up some kind of competition between our organizational sections to spur that excitement and drive more effective change. But you have to think full-circle about that. In an organization that allows this kind of competition, the results include losers as well as winners. And losing is not exciting. This kind of competition internally is always destructive. As people lose, they either withdraw their support or they undermine the winners so they can look better. Rarely do they tell their colleagues to buck up and try harder. None of this builds trust.

A better way to look at winning is through improvement activities like implementing a suggestion or solving a problem. Whenever you run an activity, you can check the results and make a couple of different decisions: 1) if the result is better performance than before the event, that’s a win. 2) if the result is the same or worse performance than before, that’s a win, if you focus on what you’ve learned and you try again.

You can also have a couple of different teams set up to try different countermeasures and see which works the best, but then have everyone work together to bring everyone up to the new level of performance together.

I often tell a story relating culture change to eating a Tyrannosaurus Rex (bigger and meaner than any elephant!) Of course, the only way to eat a T-Rex is one bite at a time. Where you start matters, though. If you start with the toughest piece and you can’t stand the taste or it’s too tough to chew, you’re going to be reluctant to take another bite. If you start with the tastiest bite, something tender and juicy and easy to swallow, then you’ll want to take another and another. Eventually, you’ll still have to eat the tough pieces, but after you’ve learned things through the tasty pieces, the tough ones are easier to break down and handle.

In practical terms, try hard to break a tough problem down into something easier to solve. Solve a smaller part and celebrate the success. Learn from the activity, then do it again. Every time you solve a problem, you’ll see that people will respond well. You’ll notice more willingness to try the next thing. They will still likely need some coaching and prompting, but after a series of small wins, people will begin to get more and more excited about changing their work to make it better.

To summarize:

1. Ask your folks to help identify problems or offer up some ideas about making their own workspace better. (Nothing very big!)

2. Write down the problems and/or ideas

3. Gather a little more information about the problem or identify the problem that sparked the idea. (Ask who, what, when, where, and how?)

4. Figure out what smaller things are contributing to the problem (ask Why is this happening?)

5. Pick ONE of the smaller things to tackle. Ask why that’s happening, and what are a few different things we can do to solve it.

6. Solve it. FINISH solving it. Measure the result and no matter how small it is, make a big deal out of it.

7. Go back to step 4 and pick the next small thing.

8. Repeat.

Time for a big T-Rex barbecue. Let’s gear up and get busy! Next time will talk about the difference between Excitement and engagement and how we can take those steps.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic, send an email to us.