Ask 100 people to define Change Management, and you'll get 100 different definitions. At the end of the day, the definition is just semantics. What really matters is whether you can implement a Change Management program in a practical way that allows you to support your organization in successfully achieving its goals. Whether you're a Change Manager, a consultant, or the tech. guy who was told to "figure out some Change Management stuff," this blog will help address common issues and topics you're likely to run into along the way.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tragic Photos: Can Change Management Theory help drive action?

A few days ago, I saw a post on Humans of New York that highlighted the work being done by Melissa Fleming in the UN Refugee Agency. In the story, she says, "I don't think I anticipated how difficult it would be to make people care." (Click here to see the full post on HoNY.) This caught my eye, as I'd recently been thinking about a similar topic - Why don't the tragic pictures we see of natural disasters and refugees move more people to action?

With Facebook, Twitter, and 24-hour news sites, we are constantly inundated with heart breaking pictures.  As a mother, the pictures of children in war-torn countries especially move me.  It's impossible to see these pictures without imagining your own children in these situations.  And yet...
Despite feeling awful when I see these pictures, I've never taken action.  I took a very personal look at why, and here's what I discovered.

Yes, these pictures make me aware of the tragedy that is occurring, and I feel terrible thinking about the people suffering.  But the problems feel so big, and I don't really know what I can do to make the situation better.  Which makes me feel helpless, and my inability to help makes me feel guilty, and so I quickly move on to the next article on CNN, hoping it will take away these feelings of sadness, and helplessness, and guilt.

Let's pause there and move from the emotional to the theoretical.  If we assume that as least a few people feel the same way I do when looking at tragic photos in the news, then from an ADKAR perspective, what we have are lots of people who are Aware of the issue, and have a strong Desire to help, but have neither the Knowledge nor Ability to take action.

For example, if you see a picture of a natural disaster, your first inclination might be to donate money.  But to whom should you donate it?  Which charity will make the best use of your money?  Or if you'd prefer to give your time, whom do you get in touch with to volunteer?  What if you don't have the skills they're looking for - how else can you help?

You could do research, find rankings of the best charities and look up the phone number of your Senator so you can call and encourage them to vote for releasing emergency funds.  But this all takes time and effort, which brings us to our second Change Management theory (and, admittedly, one of my favourites) - the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path.  Published by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, this theory suggests that when our will power to do something runs out, and continuing to change isn't our natural inclination, then we need to find a way to make change easy.

Which brings us to the question I finally arrived at, when examining my own reaction to tragic photos...

How can we make it easy for people to respond to tragic photos by supporting a cause when they don't know what action to take?

How do we smooth their path to action by giving them the knowledge and ability they need to make a change?

I don't have the answer, and there are definitely lots of people out there with much more expertise in this area than me, so I'll share my rough idea below, but I'd prefer to hear your thoughts on the topic in the comments.

My idea: What if every time you saw a tragic photo on Facebook or a news site you could click on it, and a list of 2-3 actions you could do to support the cause would appear.  One might be a "Donate Now" link, that would allow you to donate to a charity that had been pre-vetted and approved by a neutral and trustworthy third party.  Another link may say, "Get Involved," and link you to an organisation in your area that coordinates volunteers.

These links would let people quickly and easily take action, and now, instead of feeling helpless and guilty and quickly moving to the next article in an effort to alleviate those feelings, they feel empowered and proud, which hopefully leads them to search out the next photo and click to learn more about how they can drive change.

What do you think?  How would you help drive action?  Leave your ideas in the comments section below.


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