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Four D’s to bring about change

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Bus. School Press 2006) at 178 offers advice on the four most important actions that a manager needs to take to change others’ behavior. Being a fan of mnemonics, I relabeled the last two so senior managers can remember the Four Ds.

Dissatisfaction: People in the law department need to be disgruntled or worried about what’s happening. “Our filing system stinks.” Or perhaps, “We’d better cut outside counsel costs or someone will cut our headcount.”

Direction: People in the law department need to know where the change process is heading. “Relentlessly communicate what the change is, why it is necessary, and what people ought to be doing right now with as much clarity as possible.”

Doubtless: People in the department need to see their general counsel as confident. Leaders of change need to convey faith in the value and achievability of the new direction; they need to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, even as they allow for questions and new information that might refine the direction taken.

Dirty: People need to accept that change is messy and can’t be completely planned and cleanly executed. “Treat glitches as a normal part of the change process, learn from them, assume that everyone has the best intentions, and focus on how to fix the problem instead of whom to blame.”

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