A short exercise on change and change management

Change Management, Workshops & Training | 24 comments

One of the most amusing, but nevertheless insightful exercises I have done with groups, ends up with the participants taking their clothes off. Well at least some of them. (Clothes that is, not participants). I trust I now have your attention.

The exercise is to demonstrate some of the aspects of change and change management.

The groups stands in two rows facing each other and then pairs off, each pair remaining facing each other. Everyone then turns around, facing away from each other, and are asked to make one change to their appearance. They then turn back and each person has to identify the change to their partner in the pair. This first change normally involves taking a piece of clothing off, so a jumper or jacket for example.

Then you ask them to turn away again and make three changes to their appearance. And then turn back and observe the three changes. Again experience shows that the removal of items often takes place, although if you are doing this exercise in Summer, it can already start to get difficult.

In the next round they are asked to make 5 changes to their appearance. And in the fourth and final round 8 changes are required.

This however is not strip poker and what you see are more subtle changes. The watch moves from the left wrist to the right wrist. The hair is parted differently. Things are added.

You then stop and evaluate.

Some of the learning points are:

  • Change got easier. If you were to ask to change 17 things at once, it would be much more difficult.
  • Clothes and other attributes were shed first. Loss is one of the first feelings of change.
  • The rearrangement and even acquiring new things. Both to change the appearance but also in the context of change. New things emerge, not just loss and reorganisation.
  • Doing it altogether is easier. If you were just in one pair it would be more difficult.

And the final observation. People will have already started sitting down again, putting their clothes back on and other things ‘back to normal’ during the debrief. So you point out that you had not told them to sit or do this, as if the exercise has not ended.

  • Which demonstrates the final learning that even when you make changes, the organisation will try to move back to the status quo if at all possible. It takes constant efforts to stay changed and to embed change.

An amusing exercise and a harmless piece of fun. Useful to manage the energy in a heavy change management workshop. But which nevertheless demonstrates some of the fundamental concepts of change and change management.

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