One of the hottest topics for me as a behavioural skills trainer over the last 2 years has been, not surprisingly, Change Management. Many organisations are having to reinvent themselves, restructure, launch new products and break out of the accepted way of doing things in order to survive.
One crucial aspect of how well an organisation is able to deal with Change is the behavioural DNA of the people that work there. I have found it very helpful to diagnose how much of a challenge they face by using Myers Briggs profiles. For those of you not familiar with this (it’s one of the world’s most widely used personality profiles), you might find it really useful to explore. Google “MBTI” and take it from there.
Without a long exposé on the subject, let me try and explain the core concept. We all have preferences in life, and a bit like you have a preferred hand to write with, you have a preferred “hand” for dealing with the 4 dimensions of Myers Briggs. One of these is how you deal with information: if you’re a Sensor you prefer to look into detail at things and spot the here and now, and the Intuitives amongst use prefer to go with the big picture and see patterns in information. So, you are an S (Sensor) or an N (iNtuitive). You can do both, but one is your Preference.
The other dimension is how you structure your life: if you prefer life to be decided, nailed, pre planned, organised, you have a Judging preference, and if you like it when things are spontaneous, open-ended, improvised, “wing it”, you prefer Perceiving. So you are a J or a P. You can’t be both, one of these is a Preference for you.
Right, that’s a morning’s input done in two paragraphs! Here’s where it gets very interesting when we talk about Change. The combination of these two dimensions gives us your preferred outlook on change. There are four possible combinations, achieved by combining the two letters we have talked about so far. Here is what the combinations mean:
If you have read your two letters correctly, you will recognise this approach to Change in yourself.
Now, here’s the thing. Many of the organsations I work with are struggling with Change, and a big part of this is this human dimension. One of my current clients is part of a Local Council. Their core activity building and mending stuff: roads and bridges mainly. Most of their people have an engineering background, and have worked with the organisation for over 20 years. Guess what their Myers Briggs Change orientation is: IS – Thoughtful Realist. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Their organisation is having to completely reinvent itself as a commercial entity, fighting in the open market with the big boys – Bovis and Balfour Beatty etc. The challenge couldn’t be any bigger. It’s not helped by the fact that the leaders who are driving this change have a more EN “Let’s change it!” outlook. For them this is exciting white water rafting. This difference pinpoints the source of a lot of internal conflict, and whilst it doesn’t solve it, it provides a language for collaborating over it.
So to the title of this piece: it usually gets a laugh when I talk about the need for more P’ness in an organisation. Maybe that is the message if your team or organisation is struggling with change rather than embracing it: the Preferences of the people involved might be acting as a barrier. This doesn’t solve that problem, but it’s the start of a plan for how to take account of it.
Bit of a heavy topic today: let’s finish with something relaxing. I used to play this Scubert Impromptu for a wealthy millionaire who was dying of Multiple Sclerosis. He had a beautiful Bösendorfer grand piano which he could no longer play, so I’d go and while away the afternoon playing stuff like this for him. It sits beautifully under the fingers and is a real test of a decent piano, I think. Hope you enjoy it. It’s played by Alfred Brendel, whom I once met at a concert I organised at school. He has plasters on the end of his fingers because his nails are brittle. How on earth does he play with such sensitivity?
Photo © Alexander – Fotolia.com