Change Management psychology #1: chunks

Published on http://www.successday.nl

Tips and tricks – if you open a magazine or newsletter on change management, you are bound to see articles listing five, seven or more tips concerning advice on change management. Such as how to make sure your digital transformation runs smoothly, how to ensure the implementation of the HRIS is a success, or how to ensure the organizational change leads to the envisioned synergy. And often it seems that these tips state the obvious. But if it was really that simple, why is it that most change projects take forever, are seen as unsuccessful or are even abandoned after a while? Maybe it would help to understand the psychology behind these tips, and learn how they can really support the work we do. In this series, each blog will deal with a specific tip and explain why it works from a psychological perspective. Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

# 1 Break it down into chunks

Chunking, the technique of breaking a project down into manageable chunks, is one of those change management tips, but why does it work? What’s the use of chunking if we already know what we want to achieve, what the end result should look like? The quickest route from A to B is a straight line, right? Wrong. It doesn’t work that way in practice. Two things to keep mind when aiming for a long term goal.

1. We love a clear finish line but hate that it takes so long to get there

It is in our nature to procrastinate. We have a tendency to put off doing what needs to be done to achieve a long-term goal. We rather focus on things that can be done right now, such as responding to an email or answering a WhatsApp message. The further away our goal, the stronger our tendency to procrastinate. Although practicing sensemaking can help us to pave the way towards the end goal, it is not enough to ensure that we do put in the effort to reach goals that lies six, eight or twelve months ahead of us.

2. We are dopamine junkies

Ticking things off your to-do list is great. Every time you are able to take something off the list, dopamine is released into your brain. Dopamine is the stuff (hormone, actually) that makes you feel happy. We love dopamine. The instant gratification of finishing something right now always beats having to do something that produces gratification in the future. Even if we know that that future goal is better for us in the long run.

So now you know. Chunk. Break it down into manageable pieces, especially for all those people who procrastinate and are hooked on dopamine, which is all of us. It helps to get a better grasp on the route from A to B, ensures that project members in a digital transformation project are better able to keep up the good work and stay on track. And it makes us happy.

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