Ready for change?

Think your organization is ready for change? Watch your colleagues at kitchen duty and find out.

Everyone wants to be innovative. The allure of being “Startup Cool” isn’t limited to startups. Take GE, IBM and Coca Cola just to name a few. Big or small, no matter the industry, everybody wants to innovate. But true innovation requires one big, hairy, ugly commitment: CHANGE.  

How many of us have sat through team meetings where we talked about change? We embrace change! We are always improving! We have a “fail fast” mindset, so we welcome change initiatives no matter what they are! Okay, so how many of those meetings ended up in actual change? Actual, real, tangible, gosh-darned “This place is really better” change? Just a guess, but odds are that more of us answered yes to the first question than we did to the second. So why is that? And…if you really do want to change, how do you make it happen?

More has been written about resistance to change management than I could possibly cover here, and we would probably all fall asleep trying to wade through it if I attempted to cover everything. So, I want to offer just one simple test to know how ready you are for change: Kitchen Duty.

Kitchen Duty?! "How on earth could that tell me about our organization’s readiness for change?" Or you might be thinking, "We don't even have kitchen duty!! Why would I read this?" Just stay with me, though. Whether you do or don't have to clean up your own office kitchens, this premise can still apply to your organization. Think about how your colleagues treat the kitchen day in/day out and go from there...

If you look at how your colleagues approach the non-value added activities in the office, you can tell a lot about where they may land in the willingness-to-change spectrum.

Below I offer the Top 5 Kitchen Duty Archetypes along with their “change readiness” assessment.

TYPE 1: Not My Kitchen

Always absent when kitchen duty is announced. If reminded, they suddenly develop a mysterious allergy to dishwashers…or soap…or food – all food. If reminded again, they conveniently lose the ability to hear you.

They’re likely to be your Obstructors. They like it when things go their way and avoid the things that don’t, so you’ll want to win them over early. And often.

TYPE 2: But I'm Too Pretty For Kitchen Duty

Gender doesn’t matter on this one. This is the colleague who somehow, some way, finagles some other poor bastard into doing their kitchen duty for them. Every. Time.

They will be the Openly Compliant, Secretly Defiant type. Watch them. Seriously.


TYPE 3: Hates Everyone During Kitchen Duty Week

This is the employee who is normally laid back. When kitchen duty comes their way, they don’t stress over it. Until they have to clean up the kitchen. And they realize what slobs their colleagues are. And then they hate everyone. They are usually the ones that send a photo out on broadcast email of somebody’s moldy coffee cup with the subject line “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here”.

If engaged, this person can be a huge Advocate for change. But you’ve got to channel that energy – don’t let them send out the “pep talk” emails.


TYPE 4: Just Can’t Help Themselves Even When They’re On Kitchen Duty

This is the employee who eats 3 pretzels out of a bag, then leaves the open bag on the counter assuming, “Somebody will want those.” Nope. Nobody wants those. These people are either a) too lazy to put the remaining pretzels in a Ziploc; or b) really are naïve enough to assume somebody wants their half-eaten bag of pretzels. Either way, this one just doesn’t get it. They’ll happily do their kitchen duty. But “Hates Everyone During Kitchen Duty Week” and “Precision on Parade” will be coming up behind them to redo everything they’ve done.

This person is probably willing to be part of the change, but is also probably not an Influencer. Influencers eat their pretzels…or put them away.

TYPE 5: Precision On Parade

This employee makes “Hates Everyone During Kitchen Duty Week” look like a Zen master. This is the one who has to turn all the coffee cups facing the same way when they unload the dishwasher. When other people are doing kitchen duty in a less-than-perfect way, They. Just. Can’t. This is also the one who goes back and redoes everybody else’s work. Then when no one is looking, they weep for the lack of precision in how the cereal boxes are displayed. They care. Too much. 

This person is a Wild Card. They might embrace change that appeals to their sense of perfect order, but they could just as easily throw a spanner in the works. If you can get them onboard with a "must get it right or the whole company goes down" kind of role, they will thrive. Or take the company down. Hard to say.


So now you know how to identify your champions, your detractors and everyone in-between.

I hope that you find ways to apply these assessments when you’re looking at change in your organization. But, if you really want to ensure that change happens—and it happens well—engage Adaptive Growth Strategies for your next project. We use the Prosci® method, applying the ADKAR® model, to make change initiatives stick. And we’re pretty good in the kitchen too…


Lisa Niles, PhD | Managing Partner | AGS

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Lisa Niles