Kathryn, one of my consulting colleagues, shared a great example of this the other day. She told a story about how years ago she managed a team of software developers who were creating what she felt was an overly complex user interface. She had difficulty convincing them that there was a problem—after all, what they designed made sense to them. She decided not to tell them, but show them. She put the developers in a room with a TV and put a computer and a video camera in another room. She invited an administrative assistant (working for a prospective customer) to come in and use the computer while the camera recorded the process. Kathryn explained a situation in which her boss had called and assigned her to do a very simple task while he was out of the office. She had to figure out how to use the software and couldn’t call him to ask how. This was a likely scenario for prospective customers.
Of course, the admin assistant struggled… and struggled… and struggled. All the while, software engineers in the other room could only watch and get equally frustrated. Kathryn thanked the assistant for trying and brought in another, asking him to do a similar task. Same result. The engineers got the point. Well before the experiment was over, they were in the midst of animated discussions and had redesigned the user interface before they left the room.
No amount of statistics, charts, or logical arguments would have produced the same immediate action. It took tapping the developers’ feelings—frustration, embarrassment, and a sense of pride that they could do better—to motivate them. That’s Kotter’s whole point. Unless people get emotionally involved in solving an important problem, it will never get addressed.
We technical people struggle with this concept. Perhaps it’s our logical, left-brain dominance or our tendency towards introversion and conflict avoidance. For real changes to be made, however, we need to step outside our comfort zone. We must first fan the emotions of the people who can make something happen and then follow up with the analysis, make the business case, plan and execute.
So think about it. Are you having difficulty getting people to see a problem or make a change? Remember heart first, then mind. Recognize the need and be creative about showing instead of telling.