I’ve worked for 25 years in change – not all of those years have been in a formal change management position. In fact, I had sixteen different jobs before I hit my straps with change management consulting and eight years of study if you count the missteps!

But in hindsight, everyone of those roles prepared me for the work I do today. Especially when it comes to balancing logic and facts with empathy.

 

One of those roles was being on the end of the customer service hotline for one of the world’s biggest providers of flea and tick control. Yes! Who knew parasitology could be so interesting…

Typically, the calls were along the lines of

  • “your product works so well, can I use it on my children for their head lice?” (No. It’s not tested on humans).
  • “My dog is 55 Kg do I have to use 2 ampules on them?” (Yes – for the record, Australia is quite unique in its high percentage of large dogs, and therefor veterinary pharma usually overlooks that as a buyer persona and customers have to make do with two of the standard product.)
  • “My cat goes crazy after apply it, will it be ok?” (Yes, the product spreads through the oil glands in the skin. It gives them the shivers. Some tolerate better than others)

And then came the day I got the call.

 

Her: I used your product and my dog died.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that – what was the cause of death?

Her: Paralysis tick. We live in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Me: And what breed of dog?

Her: A Rottweiler

Me: And what size?

Her: 50 Kg

Me: And did you use two ampoules?

Her: Yes.

Me:  Well, our product does have the highest efficacy on the market. It is 97% efficacious for dogs against tick paralysis. [facepalm – I still can’t believe I said this]

Her: My dog is 100% dead.

And then the sobbing began.

And it is a call that has stuck with me on EVERY engagement when we start talking percentages and relative impact and triggers consideration of empathy. For what its worth I don’t think it is realistic or practical to ensure 100% efficacy of your change process – I do think you can put steps in place to mitigate or alleviate the negative impacts of loss in your change program.

 

Management: 80% of our workforce will not need to relocate.

Me: 20% of your workforce are going to be 100% uncomfortable.

 

Management: Most people will be fine.

Me: For some the loss will be deep and personal.

 

Management: We’ve organised it so 73% of best customers will not be impacted

Me: And what’s the experience for the 27% who will be? 100% annoyed?

 

Where are the 100% dead dogs in your change process?

Are you taking the steps to mitigate or alleviate the negative impacts of loss in your change program?

 

 

 

mm

Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.

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