I sat in a room listening to a consultant drone on about his change plan. It was a lot like listening to an oak tree deliver the I Have a Dream speech. He had the big name behind him and used all the right words, but his actions didn’t back him up.
“Change is about people,” he said, obviously having read the latest article on the importance of people in the workforce. He then proceeded to deliver five PowerPoint decks that were all about process.
My homework assignment to him would have been to watch “The Kardashians.” I know this sounds cruel, but it teaches an important lesson.
Why would people watch the Kardashians, beyond a grotesque obsession with materialism? I suspect it is because the family, as flawed as they might be, are connected to each other through constant, sometimes painful, conversation. And, although it’s kind of like listening to a roomful of Fran Drescher’s on tranquilizers, they do seem to care about each other.
Research shows that people talk to form and grow social bonds. They get into conversations so that they can better understand each other. Ever see one of those older couples that do not talk at restaurants? I used to pity them. Now I realize they’ve come to a point where they understand each other so well they don’t need to talk. They sit in wordless comfort.
If the big-time consultant really wants to succeed with his change effort, he needs to make sure that he understands –
It’s all about the connection, the conversation, and the story. Until change warriors understand this, they will end up with “the best-laid plans of mice and men. . .” (a line adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns).
The following quote in Steinbeck’s masterpiece says it all:
A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin’, an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by.
Connection is the key. We want stories that validate our existence.
We might not like the Kardashians, but in a cubicle world where little interaction with others occurs, we crave conversation. We need to bounce our ideas off of people. We want to know if somebody else sees what we see. We want a pack.
Every change success I’ve led has been built on the energy of conversation. What are your thoughts? Would you like to talk about it?