Managing change, what gets in the way of progress?


I watched a programme last night about a half tonne teenager and his battle with his weight.

Spurred on by his mum, who seemed to take very little responsibility for her sons weight issues, he was set to have a gastric band fitted. However, to do this, he first needed to loose around 10 stone in weight to be able to have the operation.

On the face of it, you would not expect there to be any correlation between his issues and those faced in business, but stick with me….

He was brought into hospital so the nurses and hospital staff could coach him and lead him into losing the weight needed. This included specialists and counsellors as well as a senior doctor. Each day they would get him off his bed and get him to walk around, do arm and leg exercises and generally get the heart rate up in order that he could lose some weight. All good sense I hear you saying. However, his mother decided to stay with him throughout the entire ordeal and although she had the best intentions, she spent more time mothering him than helping him. Every time he would be encouraged to get up and do some exercise, closely monitored and controlled by the hospital help, his mother would intervene and state “I think he has done enough” or do you want to take a lie down and rest for a minute. Although the gentleman in question was 19 years old, he acted like a young boy, doing everything his mother had told him rather than listening to the professionals. The hospital staff made comments to the camera about the mother intervening. They all admitted that she was trying to look after her son and do the right thing, but because her motivation was one of care for her son rather than the goal in hand, all she was doing was getting in the way.  Having said this, he did manage to lose the weight and was cleared to have the operation.

Post operation, he was allowed to go home and the first thing his mum did was to make him a chilli dog! The family had moved straight back into old habits. The doctor had warned the family that unless he stuck to his strict regime, the gastric band would fail as the stomach would again be stretched and the son would then feel the need to eat more over time and would never lose the weight that was intended over a 2 year period. Although the leg work had been done and the correct course of action had been detailed out, bad habits and misguided parenting was setting the son back on the path he was on prior to the operation. The doctor made a home visit a week post op and stated this clearly to the mother that she was feeding him far too much and allowing him to repeat his bad habits like staying in bed due to lack of motivation.

The mother soon came to realise this and her attitude completely changed to her credit. She started to encourage her son to exercise, managed his food intake and generally tried to follow the guidelines set out.

What can we learn from all of this in the world of business? Well, if you try to implement new ideas or new operations/strategies in a business, there will always be resistance to change. A business will outsource change, in many cases, to an external professional group who can advise and have experience in what is needed to succeed, but if the business is not willing to change, then all this effort can easily be eroded. If we take the mother as being a CEO, although she had the best intentions at heart, her emotional relationship with the issue had caused her to act in opposition to what was the identified course of action. The gastric band was the short term fix to set the “business” into the right mind-set and position, the long term strategy was exercise and adhering to the strategy put in place. In order to succeed, IE lose weight, the family would need to follow the actions set in motion in order that the long term goal could be achieved. External professionals/consultants can always be brought in to help a business, but in order for change to be successful in the long term, you need to change the mind-set of the business and this needs to be accepted from the top down, as if there is one weak link in the chain, it can hinder the entire process.


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