The people affected must acquire new knowledge—for the sake of illustrating what I mean by new knowledge, think of a user’s manual or training. The receptionist trying to deal with a new phone system has to be trained, and equally important all the people in the office have to understand how their piece of the system works including its new benefits and features. If they have been given that prerequisite knowledge, or eventually dig it out themselves, then with the right attitude they will acquire new skills (the skill to use the new equipment and features). In short they will know how, but until those skills become habit, higher performance will go unrealized. It is only over time that those skills become habit and allow the Change Curve to reverse its downward trend turning upward from its low point, the valley of despair, to climb up to targeted performance. It is like a golfer or other athlete who develops muscle memory. Taking advantage of the new equipment and benefits has to become instinctive. If you have to take the time to check with others, refer to a checklist or open a user’s guide, the new system will still be getting in the way of performance.
When a receptionist dealing with a new phone system says “If you ask me this has just made things worse,” she is the victim of a lack of proactive change management. Sooner or later, in the example of the phone system, the organization will survive and get some of the desired benefit of upgrading its phone system—but not before hurting its performance and frustrating its people and customers for some period of time. But other changes, left to similarly fester, can literally put a company out of business. It is a scenario I have seen played out many times.
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