Change Management – Performing Through the Learning Dip

When you're faced with change and having to do things in a new way, have you noticed that it takes longer to get things done? When you change your mobile phone or your television, this can be really frustrating. Suddenly the buttons are in slightly different places and simple actions take longer, things that you…

When you're faced with change and having to do things in a new way, have you noticed that it takes longer to get things done?

When you change your mobile phone or your television, this can be really frustrating. Suddenly the buttons are in slightly different places and simple actions take longer, things that you would normally do without even thinking. Or maybe you've upgraded your computer to a new version of your word processing program – now it takes longer to find your way around, and do things that used to be 'second nature'.

The smallest changes in a process can be disruptive – a different way of filling in your expenses form, where to get the new form, understanding any new fields, what is expected, who should it go to etc. Before a change took place, you did not have to think about these things. You just did them automatically without really having to think about them, you had reached 'unconscious competency' with these activities and could have realized them competently 'on autopilot'. But suddenly, something new is thrown into the mix and now you need to think quite hard to figure out precisely what the process is and this slows you down. You're back to an earlier stage of the learning process, and you feel as if you need to deal with it, and fast, as it's slowing you down! Which can just lead to more frustration!

In a business management environment, it's easy to assume that we can maintain normal levels of performance when faced with change, at any level. Very often project plans not only assume people can perform their daily tasks at the normal level but also are expected to take on extra workloads during change. This usually does not work, and performance drops in spite of our best efforts. This is called the 'learning dip' – you can not avoid it, but you can be aware of it and take action to minimize its impact:

• Do not expect to maintain normal performance levels during change – allow for the dip

• Support your teams to help them through. This could be as straightforward as acknowledging that things may take a little longer

• Remember that a drop in performance at this time is not a sign of failure or incompetence

• Where frustration sets in, judgment may become clouded and mistakes can be made – set realistic expectations

• Acknowledge when performance begins to climb back and celebrate the improvement that results

The steps shown here are really simple, but can make an awesome difference to your change program and the results you get!