The chain-smoker analogy

Chris Bradley: You had these contests as the smoker between your current self that loved that next cigarette and your future self that didn’t want to live with the consequences of many years of smoking and knew that once you were actually out of that vicious cycle of smoking you would actually be happier.

Angus Dawson: And there was the in-between self that was very, very grumpy.

Chris Bradley: Apparently. But these are deep-seated habits, so trying to get a CEO or a board or a management team to act like they would thank themselves for in five years’ time is really hard because the current self does have these fairly strong feelings and these pangs and these urges to keep the current habit going. Now, smoking at least is a solo game, but this one you all have to stop smoking together; the board, the management team.”
A McKinsey discussion on disruption.

I really like this analogy for change management in general and for disruption of the status quo. Convincing a person in an organisation that there is a need to quit their current OSS and move to the happier, healthier version of the future can be a difficult one. They already know that they “should” do it, but they also know that the transition to the future state is going to be a painful one (ie the in-between, grumpy state). They have a whole “processing” cycle to go through before acknowledging that they “will” quit and clearly they have to make that brain-shift for themselves before a change is going to occur.

One of the biggest, yet most underestimated challenge of implementing an OSS is change management and the fact that you’re dealing with tens (if not hundreds/thousands) of chain-smokers. No matter how good the solution is technically, you need to help each impacted person through the brain-shift and grumpy states before they’ll embrace the future state and make the OSS transformation successful.

To extend this analogy, each person works through the transition at different paces and with different drivers, so change management isn’t just – we’ll deliver a couple of weeks of product training just before handover / go-live… although that does seem to be a common approach used. Also it is an internal decision, so whilst an OSS vendor/integrator/implementer can help guide the process of change, it needs to be driven by the customer’s organisation.

For a more comprehensive, 8 step change management framework, refer to this page.

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