Make your change a combo!

If you’ve traveled on a big airplane, you might have noticed that when you lock the door in the bathroom, the light comes on. Some smarty pants connected two actions to prevent an embarrassing incident because in our rush to finally get in and go, it’s easy to forget to put the lock on. But we will notice the lack of light immediately. Set the lock and behold there is light! 

There are several significant lessons here for change leaders:

Create checks and balances
Connecting one important action to another helps people to remember both and avoid getting off track. What new behavior can you connect with something else to ensure they both occur? For example, a new form cannot be submitted without completion of all mandatory fields. Make the new fields mandatory! You can also make a step contingent on entering the output from a previous step such as a code. Kinda like multi-factor authentication. Enter the results of ABC in order to proceed. 

Combine messages
In organizations today, every change is run as a separate program. “Please do these new things.” Then they read the next email: “You need to add these steps to procedure X.” We send multiple messages to the same people, each one demanding a chunk of their attention and decision-making. I’ve found that many of these change programs can combine messaging to reduce the cognitive load and avoid overwhelming the audience. Two messages can become one. 

Turn on the light
But there’s another important point for leaders. If the light doesn’t come on, progress is difficult. We tend to bump into things. The last thing people want is to be left in the dark. 

Have you ever tried to see into the dark when you are in a well-lit room? It’s almost impossible. We can’t see who is out there stumbling around. We have to go out there with a flashlight to see who might be lost. Leaders are typically ‘in the know’ and can see exactly what’s happening and where we are headed. Most stakeholders are not privy to the same level of insight. Sending out emails with instructions for finding the light switch is not enough. We have to go out and ensure the light was turned on.

Whoever figured out how to connect the light with the lock in the bathroom was a genius. Do your stakeholders have enough light? Can you combine messages or tie it to another change to make it easier to find the switch?

Thoughtfully yours, 
Jeff Skipper

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