Answering “Why?”

Last week, I have been fortunate to instruct a 3-day Prosci Change Management Practitioner class to our Customer Success team in India. As expected, we spent good amount of time on Individual Change, as Organization Change is just the sum of collection of Individual Changes. We discussed a lot about Prosci’s Individual Change Model ADKAR® of Awareness- Desire- Knowledge- Ability – Reinforcement, the critical milestones of individual change. As we experience in lots of the transformation projects, addressing Awareness and Desire milestones might be unfortunately taken granted and/or skipped (focusing on Knowledge/Ability) which causing that people do not change as fast as we expect. Answering the questions of “Why the change”, “What is the nature of the change” or “What is in it for Me” are the very critical steps to move individuals and organizations thru the change. During the class, one of the attendees asked me the question how to best address the “Why” question which allowed me to reflect on this and share my thoughts below. And the more I reflected on that, the more I realized that answering that “Why” question in an comprehensive way is not only important for individual change but also for how we do sales, how we do marketing, how we partner with our customers, how we collaborate and how we move and transform people and organizations. So I came to a conclusion that in order to activate individuals, teams, organizations and even society for something greater; we need to become much more diligent and comprehensive in explaining the “Why?”

How we can create better awareness and desire? How we can activate the people? What are the button’s in the brain to motivate for change and move further? During times of change, if we cannot activate individuals, we will have limited success. “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” as Mark Twain is often reputed to have said. The changes we had in the past cannot be compared to today, yes we are in the exponential and combinatorial change phase of the world, but the way human mind and brain approaches into change – independent of the huge scale difference- is not mainly different, it rhymes more than we assume. Going back, Aristotle taught us that persuasion is based on how well we appeal individuals in three areas, logos, ethos and pathos, in his rhetorical triangle.

Lets start with Pathos, how do we move individuals in their awareness and desire journey through emotional appeal? It is about story telling to stimulate our brain. Stories of the future, Inspiration of the transformation, making the unknown future appealing and bonding that emotional connection for the future world that will be greater than today. If we cannot activate the brain with emotions, it wont be easy if even possible to activate. Yes today is known and comfortable, tomorrow might be stressful, and the day after tomorrow might be completely unknown to us; but it is us who is going to shape it with passion and enthusiasm; hence without emotional appeal- pathos- we cannot create the awareness & desire we look for. Is it enough? Definitely no.

Lets talk about Ethos, the credibility component. In sales engagements, we found ourselves a lot with case studies, success stories, benchmarks and proof of concepts to build the credibility, yes we are talking to the middle brain. So is it when we are talking to individuals about change. We are celebrating early adopters and sharing those stories with everyone. We always talk about the importance of sponsors in relaying business messages. We are assessing organizations to assess the history of organization’s change readiness, to better understand whether previous changes built the credibility in the organization. Similar how we do the marketing. If we cannot build the trustworthiness, authority and credibility; the chances to move individuals, organizations and society are limited. Hence our answer to “why” should not only talk to emotional appeal but also to credibility and ethical appeal. Is it enough? No

Lastly, lets talk about Logos. Whether it is business value assessments in sales; evidence, facts, statistics in marketing or answering business reasons thru executive leadership in organizational change; it is all about the appeal to logic or reason. Without talking the logic or reason, any answer to “Why” will be limited. In order to move individuals and society for anything greater than today, they need to understand the logic and reason. So it should be part of the communication strategy.

That was my reflection when answering the question how we should address Why question at best. If we do not communicate in all three areas- in other words if we do not talk to the three things our brains are looking for- we cannot create the required awareness and desire for change. And if we cannot create awareness and desire for change; we can be sure that we wont get the results we are looking for in this transformation. As the whole world, we are going through a big transformation and I am very optimistic that the future will be brighter for everyone. But we need to lead the change and we need to answer the “question of why” very diligently and comprehensively. Let me finish this article with my favorite futurist Gerd Leonhard’s question: “Are you driving the change or are you being driven by it?