The military has some of the very best management ideas. I wrote about how to apply the principles of the OODA Loop to management in my first book, the Management Models Pocketbook. I will also be writing about BLUF in my new book, Brilliant Influence.
The military has also got the answer to creating near instant changes in mind-set. Most of my readers have probably seen one or two of the many war films that start with new recruits arriving at boot camp. Memorable films for me include: Full Metal Jacket, An Officer and a Gentleman and Platoon. Some of my readers may be in or retired from the forces and know the truth of it.
One thing is for sure: new recruits are all treated the same and all are subjected to a regime that marks a clear distinction from their former civilian life. Institutional food and clothing; rigidly enforced rules, some of which seem arbitrary (and some may be); and a focus on the group over the individual are all designed to do three things:
- Create a tangible break from what came before
- Establish authority and compliance
- Strip away some of the norms of previous behaviour, to make way for new norms
How does this apply to organisational change?
Kurt Lewin anyone? This sounds to me very much like “unfreezing” – the first phase of Lewin’s “Freeze Phases” model for creating change. More a “flash thaw” I suppose.
I learn one powerful thing from this. In this environment, nobody lays out the changes to the new recruits and asks them to embrace the change. There’s no attempt to win over minds and hearts.
We often think “change attitudes and behaviours will follow”. I think this example serves to illustrate that the opposite can work too. After thousands of years of organised military forces, we know that ”change behaviours and attitudes will follow” can also work.
A while back, I wrote the post “Diving into Change” where I suggested that we can all do with diving in feet first sometimes. I wonder if the same is true organisationally. I wonder when ”change behaviours and attitudes will follow” is right in organisations. I wonder how many broken organisations might benefit from some courage in this direction.
The “so what?”
Is this an option for you? Should it be? At least consider it.
If you do, however, be sure you put as much planning into it as you can – it could be a one-shot process.