Why Is Change So Hard?

When a company is formed, individuals within must cooperate for it to succeed. As the company grows, the chances that not cooperating can be more rewarding for an employee are increased.

We are all too familiar with the examples of this behaviour: Developers short-cutting test efforts, delivery promises not kept at the last minute or the dreaded “office politics”.

If these situations can be described as iterative “prisoner’s dilemma” games between employees, then company cultures are established game strategies that provide the best outcome for the players.

Robert Axelrod

The problem with change..

As Robert Axelrod describes on his book “The Evolution of Cooperation”, an stable strategy is one that when faced with itself it always provides the best outcomes for the players.

When introducing change into a company culture, we will be facing strategies that have survive because they are proven to successfully provide high rewards for their players.

Even if our strategy can yield better outcomes, it will take a substantial effort before it becomes the dominant strategy.

Introducing Change Successfully

Axelrod proposes introducing new strategies through groups of individuals that are likely to interact with eac other more frequently than average. this will quickly create strongholds of the new strategy and allow it to spread faster to the rest of the community.

Most of today’s change management techniques find their fundamentals in these principles: From the creation of pilots groups to the planning of benefit realisation.

So change is as hard as it needs to be

Every change project has the objective of making today’s “new ways of working” the future “business as usual”. The same “cooperation principles” that made introducing your change hard, will prevent the return of old habits once it is established.

So think about it twice the next time that you feel like complaining : “Change is too hard!” 🙂

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