Change Systems Are Less Effective Because They Don't Follow Brain Rules

Research shows that very high percentages of change efforts fail. 70% of mergers and acquisitions lose shareholder value (KPMG Global Survey, A New Dawn: Good Deals in Challenging Times, May 2011). 68% of IT projects fail (Standish Group report, CHAOS Summary, April 2009). Most training fades away within 6 weeks ( John T. Wixted and Ebbe B. Ebbesen, On the Form of Forgetting, American Psychological Society Vol. 2, November 1991). Put all together, people who don’t want to change cost businesses at least $1 trillion, perhaps as much as $3 trillion a year worldwide.

The number one reason for the above results has consistently been the fact that leaders don’t have access to solutions that will get people to make needed adjustments. Simply put, if you trace back every organizational, team, or individual effort, you’ll see that the way people learn, plan, interact and execute are the main determining factor for success or failure. To achieve success, people always have to make adjustments along the way, and when people don’t like to change how they do things and how they react, failure is not far behind.

This all means one thing: that people in positions of influence are often blocked from leading teams and supporting organizations to success. It is, however, important to understand that it is the very design of change efforts that is failing them, not human nature (which is unquestionably difficult to deal with at times) or the complexity of the situation (which is often highly complex in our 21st century dynamic environment).

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina says: “Most of us have no idea how our brain works.” He goes on to explain that this has strange consequences such as: “…we have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive…unless you have the Journal of Neuroscience sitting on your coffee table, you’re out of the loop.”

Medina’s claim fits well with the world of change. Since managers, teams and leaders in positions of influence do not know how the brain works – worse yet, since change systems have been designed without taking into account how the brain works – people often resist making needed adjustments and we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes with the same frustrating results.

Brain rules expose brilliant new principles: that giving people knowledge and providing logical and coherent explanations does not lead to behavioral change; or that role play is not interpreted by the brain as experience if any mimicking is involved.

Are you finding it difficult trying to get people to make needed adjustments? Did you consider that you may not have had access to the right “brain rules” systems design?

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