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Author's profile photo Kerry Brown

Old habits die hard…(aka making change stick)

Last week, I was scheduled to go to the office for a software demonstration. Now, like a lot of SAP employees, I work mostly from a home office (except when I work from airports, taxis, customer sites, etc.), so going to the office is not an everyday occurrence. It was pouring rain, I had stood in line for almost two hours to vote, and Atlanta’s traffic was insane, as always. And I was running a few minutes late.

So how surprised was I to suddenly realize that instead of speeding up GA400 toward the office, I was well on my way to the rowing venue where I’ve been training daily for the last few months? How did I end up heading in the totally wrong direction?

Like everyone, when I’m stressed, hurried, pressured or tired, I revert to habit. “Auto-pilot” takes over. “Old habits die hard,” as they say.

My highway revelation quickly reminded me of a discussion I’d had with a customer at the recent SAPinsider conference. She had asked why end-users so often learn and, theoretically, understand the new tools they’re given. They seem to recognize that the new processes are making their jobs easier, faster, and more productive. Usually, they are interested and even motivated. But somehow, after the initial learning period, they drift back to the old ways of doing things.

It’s not obstinance. It’s not even a conscious decision. It’s simply the pull we all feel toward our comfort zone. Especially when we are facing deadlines, distractions, performance measurements, or any of the other pressures that most workers encounter daily in their jobs.

That’s why managing change means more than creating initial changes in behavior. Implementing a new process is fairly easy. Making the new process so comfortable that it displaces the old, that’s where real change management comes in. What makes it ‘stick’.  The goal is to convert the change into second-nature behavior, a habit – to create a new, lasting comfort zone.

That’s the only way to get safely to our intended destination.

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      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Thank you for posting this observation. A couple of times I found myself half the way to the office when heading to a store (on a weekend) in almost opposite direction. 😳

      Some time ago Firefox released new version of their browser and in the right-click menu they switched 'Open in the new tab' with 'Open in the new window'. The argument was that tab is used more frequently, so it should be first. But my many years of muscle memory were not that easy to overcome. Fortunately, after a while someone came up with a "hack" that restored the previous order. So I was again a happy FF user after just a brief stint with IE (yuck). I think this is a great example of change management - make it comfortable.

      Author's profile photo Kerry Brown
      Kerry Brown
      Blog Post Author

      Jelena - you certainly understand!!  I am about to shift from blackberry to the iphone...while exciting, no doubt will lead to some of the same challenges

      Thanks for sharing your feedback