Stockholm Syndrome in change management

Stockholm City HallHave you ever been in the situation where you want to help people get out of a bad situation, but they are so comfortable with the way things are that they want to stay?

How many different situations could this describe? It's the classic Stockholm Syndrome of captives developing a bond with their captors. I met Carol Murchie at the Boston KM Forum yesterday, and she is using this term to talk about business and technology change. Stockholm Syndrome: people who are trapped by poorly-performing tools and processes but still don't want to give them up. She gave me some more detail behind her thinking:

[Stockholm Syndrome] particularly proves relevant among those who complain about a process and when offered a possible solution, rationalize that the old method “really isn’t all that bad” to avoid change. It can degrade even further to a point that it mimics “learned helplessness” in rats, another image that I have used when an organization’s effectiveness has totally broken down.

This is part of the reason that purely logical approaches to "change management" have to tread carefully. It's not just the outward logic behind the situation that keeps people doing what they are doing, there are ties to familiarity and comfort. The best change agents are able to see things from the perspective of the people going through the change and talk in their language. This does two things: it helps people understand the change, of course. But it also helps the change agent design the change to meet more of their needs. It cannot simply be a one-way "you must leave" approach to change.

Thanks Carol! It was a pleasure meeting you.

[Photo: "Stockholm City Hall" by Ralph Cockx]

1 Comment(s)

Jack Vinson Author Profile Page said:

This entry was picked up by Monica Bay of Law Technology News, http://www.law.com/jsp/lawtechnologynews/PubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1202492276856

Thanks to my brother-in-law for catching the reference.

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