The Price Tag of Change

24 Oct

I was reading one of Gary Klein’s recent blogs on Psychology Today, where he discussed the characteristics of leaders who were able to make a difference to the organisations which they led. Klein, whilst acknowledging the limits of his observations, saw the “difference makers” as behavioral engineers.

As I see it, these difference-makers (a) were aware that the status quo wasn’t acceptable; (b) diagnosed how the culture needed to change; and (c) designed a minimal intervention, a leverage point, that would not only interfere with the status quo but would make it difficult to later return to the dysfunctional status quo. The difference-makers were all behavioral engineers” ( Link to full article)

What I would add is that good behavioral engineers also have a superior knowledge of risks associated with change in their organisations. In other words, when behavioral engineers make changes, they have a good understanding of the consequences the change will bring. This means knowing what skills and expertise the changes will retain and support, and what skills and behaviors the changes will wash away.

Without this knowledge change is merely an abstract exercise in moving around structures and shapes with little attention to consequences and human cost. Certainly, this change can look sensible and logical, but will come with a price tag which is both financial and behavioral. Without a good idea of the price tag associated with change, then a leader has no idea what they are retaining or losing in terms of skills and expertise. This makes medium to long term success very difficult.


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