When making major change finding symbols and mechanisms that help accelerate the change can be important. These elements of your change management plan act as catalysts, helping make the change occur. Jim Collins described the power of catalytic mechanisms as a vehicle to help organisations achieve goals in a classic Harvard Business Review article.
Immersion in the problem is an incredibly powerful catalyst of change in organisations. Too often change conversations can have an abstract or a theoretical flavour. Improving customer satisfaction, employee engagement or community reputation can seem like moving the needle on an intangible measure. These conversations are often lifeless. They are very different measures and conversations when you are at the edge of the organisation, face to face with those affected and discussing the issues.
Immersion changes the nature of people’s understanding of problems. Put the change agents or those doubting the need for change in the heart of the problem, face to face with the issues and people involved. The need for change change is more tangible. People see things with new eyes. Immersion shows you parts of the system that you have never seen before. There is nothing like being on the spot. Immersion also delivers passion and insights that can’t be found around a conference table.
We have a lot of ways to immerse ourselves in any situation requiring change. I have seen the power of formal immersion programs that prompt reflection, discussion and action. More simply, we can eat our own dogfood. We can go to Gemba. We can know our enemies. We can manage by walking around. We can do the work or live the life for an hour, a day or a week. We can turn back on our customer and community understanding and use our own radar to contribute to the change.
Immersion can be the easiest powerful action you can take to catalyse change. Everyone in the organisation can be involved. It can take as little as half an hour and as much as a lifetime. Put your leaders in the heart of the problem and watch the results.