Conformance or commitment?

Conformance or commitment?

When it comes to change management, there are times when discussion is appropriate, and times when it isn’t.

For example, if the fire alarm is sounding and you’ve been ordered to leave the building, no one is interested in your objections to going outside. Even if you’re heading into the middle of a monsoon…

From a manager’s point of view, that’s the perfect model. There can be no argument, because:

  • It’s a quick win
  • It’s highly visible and easily measured.
  • And it doesn’t cost very much.

In fact it simply requires the slick application of carrot and stick. (In this case “Would you like to stay alive?” and “Oh, so you’d prefer to die, then?”)

Of course, most issues can’t be resolved quite so easily. Conformance is all very well, but if it’s a grumbling, resentful and rebellious conformance then you are simply creating problems for the future.

You need to think about hearts and minds as well – even if you have a sneaking sympathy for Nixon’s famous remark that if you grab someone hard enough in an (in)appropriate place, their hearts and minds will follow.

‘I insist you will like this…’

Gerard Hoffnung’s words were intended to be ironic, but some managers seem to take them literally. And the truth is that if an action needs to be done just once, or on a very few occasions, then conformance is all that’s needed.

People don’t have to think about it. And they don’t have to like it. They just need to do it.

The same does not apply to actions that must be regularly repeated. Here the simple application of sticks and carrots is rarely going to achieve the change you are looking for.

That’s when you will need commitment.

And you will also need to understand how commitment can be recognised, and the inevitable problems involved in asking people with ingrained habits to change their behaviour.

Can your people stop worrying and love change?

Can your people stop worrying and love change?

Let’s face it, no one loves change. Just consider the fallout from the referendum in 2016 which committed the UK to leaving the European Union.

Some accepted it with enthusiasm.

Some found it deeply worrying. In their view no one seemed to have a worked-out strategy for achieving the change. And on one seemed to have any real understanding of the necessary process.

In the meantime, TV interviews suggested many voters had little or no idea what the EU was or what leaving it would entail.

The truth will not be fully known for many, many years – but its impact has already been compared with that of the English Reformation under Henry VIII.

And some historians believe that cataclysmic shift was at the roots of the English Civil War…

The three levels of change

Whatever your personal feelings about the referendum, it does illustrate an important point. Because all change – no matter how small – takes place at three levels:

  • The task – answering the question ‘what are we doing?’
  • The process – answering the question ‘how are we doing it – by what method?’
  • And the emotional adjustment – the feelings people have about their present situation, and about the proposed change.

The last is frequently the most difficult and the most complex. That’s because it won’t just involve people’s reaction to the change itself. Often their emotional response is determined by past experience. And many will be carrying mental ‘baggage’ from other more (or less) successful processes.

All three levels are involved in any change scenario – and all three interact, in a very complex way, to build or destroy people’s commitment to the process.

And without commitment, there can be no effective change.

Of course, there are some situations where emotional commitment is irrelevant – where something has to be done simply because there is no alternative.

If a fire alarm goes off, for example, then it’s essential for everyone to leave the building, whether they want to or not.

But when the possibility of another option exists, there will always be those who prefer to follow it. So it’s vital to consider how, exactly, you can obtain the commitment you need.

Read more about conformance and commitment to change.

Why systems matter even more to a depressive

Why systems matter even more to a depressive

A few words about this blog:

Ever suffered a depressive episode? If you haven’t, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like, or what impact it can have on your life.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our clients – and our suppliers – are human beings, with their own particular set of strengths and weaknesses. That can be particularly true of the creative people we rely on to provide the vital spark for our marketing, our social media content, our brochures and catalogues and even our branding and our business cards. A significant number of them are depressives. Frustratingly (for them) it often seems to come as part of their package.

This article – from a very talented writer – may help to put that in perspective. As well as showing how a well-established, reliable process makes it possible to cope, and more than cope.

Can’t remember… What was it again?

The conversation goes something like this.

“Have you left me a review of my book?”

“Well, of course I’ve left you a review! I beta-read that book for you. And I got a copy on its release day. Then I came to your release party. Of course I’ve left you a review. I said … I said … (pause) I didn’t leave you a review, did I?”


(Knock, knock.) “Hello?”

“Uh, hi. Have I come to the right house? You are expecting me? I have a consultation at 10am … (Blank horrified stare from me.) Oh, you weren’t expecting me, were you?”


“You did send that document off to the tax people, didn’t you?”

“Yes, yes. I’m sure I did.”

“So this envelope I’ve just found addressed to the tax people and clearly not posted has nothing to do with that …”

For me this is the scariest thing about my depressive episodes. Not the withdrawal from human contact, not the days sat shaking on the sofa, too weak to walk further than to the kitchen or bathroom, but the memory gaps. Or even worse, the false memories. Tasks undone or forgotten lie like landmines all over my personal and professional life. They frighten me.

There’s a very good clinical reason for these memory gaps. During depression, the part of the brain connected with memory shrinks. It’s as if part of the filing system has been thrown out. I can only assume that my false memories occur because the creative part of the brain (at least in my case) is unaffected and just makes up what I think must have occurred, rather than remembering what did actually occur.

It isn’t the words…

Now, I would be the first to admit that admin is not my strong point. If you want five hundred words on the inside of a ping pong ball by five o’clock then I’m your woman. If you need an impromptu ten minute speech on the importance of leg-warmers in popular Eighties culture, then just ask. But organising and keeping a filing system up to date… best look elsewhere for that one.

Even so, I like to keep my promises. I like to be professionally reliable. I like to be a responsible citizen who files tax returns on time.

So my challenge is to create, while well, robust and simple systems that will still work when I’m ill. I need visual reminders of what I need to do when. Even down to “System to follow when a client books an appointment.” I need a promise book.

Of course I don’t know that these reminders will be infallible. I think I will still need people around me to exercise a lot of tolerance and forgiveness when yet another of those depressive landmines explodes. But, by being responsible about it, I should at least minimize the casualties.

Written by Mary, a Moodscope member