The Change Angels’ Share of Performance

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Whisky makers have a concept of “the Angels’ Share” – it’s the 2% of whisky that evaporates each year as the whisky matures and mellows in the cask.  Thankfully, they also understand that there’s little point in trying to improve efficiency and retain that 2% – it’s part of the process and character of the whisky.

Sadly, whenever change is being implemented in an organisation, there’s rarely any allowance for the Angel’s Share.  There’s no room for any loss of productivity or performance while changing the organisation and how people think…

Which is, let’s face it, nonsense.  If you want people to change their behaviour, you want to influence their thinking and decision-making.  Which means introducing a step where they have to re-evaluate a decision that they’ve been making automatically to this point.  (This is assuming, rather generously, that you’re being successful in communicating the need and nature of the change.  But that’s a can of worms for another time.)

To give you an example (with apologies to those who recently had to do this at the masterclass):

  • Stand up.  Sit down, while folding your arms.  Note two things: 1) the time it took to sit down; 2) which way are your arms folded.
  • Stand up again.  Sit down again, while folding your arms the other way around.  Note two things: 1) did you fold your arms differently; 2) how much longer did it take?

Of course, if we were really simulating the situation in many change environments, we’d need a further step: some people’s chairs wouldn’t be there when they sit down.  Then you’d see a real drop in productivity.

So let’s stop talking about change without any drop in performance.  Instead let’s think about which actually takes priority.  Do you want the current performance to stay the same or do you want the change?

And if the answer remains both, then invest in extra capacity and resource for the lifetime of the project.

Or psychiatric care for those frazzled people.



Categories: Cognitive science