Words Of Wisdom: Picasso On Organizational Change

In my quest to find new insights (and interesting material for my blog), I ran across this quote attributed to Pablo Picasso:

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction

Picasso may not have been thinking about customer experience initiatives, but his insights are right on the mark. Any major intitiative requires significant change — typically crossing over many organizational boundaries.  For these efforts to succeed, many employees have to do things differently. As Picasso’s quote highlights, doing something differently requires the destruction of the status quo. And, as companies often find out the hard way, many people aren’t ready to make that shift.

So what keeps people from changing? Often times it is because they:

  • Don’t understand the initiative
  • Don’t agree that it’s in the company’s best interest (they may — or may not — be right)
  • Don’t think it’s in their own personal best interest (they may — or may not — be right)
  • Don’t like the people running the initiative
  • Don’t like change of any type

So if firms want their customer experience efforts to be successful, they can’t just focus on the new stuff. Firms need to also understand what’s being “destroyed.” These efforts must examine exactly what’s changing — from the perspective of the employees.

To try and overcome people’s resistance, large-scale initiatives should include:

  • Broad-based communications. Have an explicit plan for regular communications with employees using things like newsletters, intranet sites, and roadshows. Make sure you communicate what is happening, when it’s happening, and why it’s happening.
  • Front-line feedback sessions. Before you change what employees do, include them in a discussion about how the changes will be initatives. These types of discussions will help to fine-tune the approach and also raise the awareness of some potentially big obstacles.
  • Senior executive commitment. It’s much easier to resist change than to make it succeed. So employees need know that it’s important to embrace the change. To create that type of an enviornment, senior executives need to demonstrate their commitment to the effort in a very visible, sustained, and hands-on way. 

The bottom line: To turn customer experiences into a work of art (don’t forget, the quote came from Picasso), firms must destroy a lot of status-quo. That’s why one of the principles of Experience-Based Differentiation is “Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function.” If you’re not prepared to understand and deal with the destruction, then don’t bother starting the process.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

One thought on “Words Of Wisdom: Picasso On Organizational Change”

  1. I agree with your insights.

    Too often we see companies operating in the “safe zone” where it is easier to avoid change rather than embrace it. The frontline needs to know that the initiative is not a “flavor of the month” program, and management needs to understand that change can take years, not months across a sizeable organization.

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