Workplace change is a time management problem. Not the to-do list, prioritising, task orientated kind of time management. The psychological kind.

Image of young business man changing reality

“You don’t bring about change in real big meetings or virtual meetings. You bring it about one person at a time, face to face—when we discover we have some common interests and we’re both pissed off…And so we create a conspiracy. It’s a subversive act, and being co-conspirators in a subversive act requires trust and intimacy.”

Tom Peters – McKinsey Quarterly September 2014

I won’t resist change if it means something to me personally, and I get to keep the things I value. If it’s aligned with my values and beliefs, and your values and beliefs, we might even encourage it along. Those values are accumulated over time, they’re how we become who we are. We can’t change them at the whim of a new CEO who’s decided that the Future we believed in yesterday has no value today.

It’s like trying to rewrite a story when most of it has already been written. Retconning, might be alright in Doctor Who and comic books, but in real life we tend to believe that the Future is driven by the Past, not the other way around. It’s only a belief, but one we’re very attached to.

So mistake number one is failure to link the Past with the Future. Mistake number two is neatly summarised by this quote from “Why Corporate’s Can’t Change” by Bob Marshall from his blog “Think Different”

“people’s behaviours change when their beliefs about how to get their needs met, change”

So if you can align your change programme with our motivations (another word for meeting how we meet our own needs), you’ll stand a much better chance of changing our behaviour. Problem is, we’re all motivated differently, and your standard corporate change programme tends to be a sheep dip that we’re led through by the nose. That, or the “motivation” tools are the carrot and stick – both extrinsic and proven to be ineffective at effecting change that sticks.

So why is this a time management problem? Here’s why:

Time Well Spent

This is Ilona Boniwell’s model of “Time Satisfaction”. The five factors that determine how satisfied we are with the way we use our time. Motivation is the engine that drives us to do what we do, and whether we do it at all. Full disclosure: Ilona’s research, together with Philip Zimbardo’s is what’s gone into our Time Intelligence Report.

How can it be fixed? If I want to change myself, or if you want to change me, it has to be a coherent story, connecting the Past, Present and Future, and it has to connect to my own sense of what’s important to me – so it’s an inside job. It has to be personal and meaningful to me.