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'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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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