Get Out Of The Cave

Dan Carusi Change, Culture, Dan Carusi, Organizational Development

It’s Friday night at the Carusi house, so that can only mean one thing – family movie night!  My kids decided to pick the movie, The Croods. Clearly, I failed at my attempts to talk them into another inspirational movie. Our last movie, Invincible, the story of Vince Papale, was too much for them to handle – especially since I sold them on the fact it was a Disney movie, so it was supposed to be “just like Pirates of the Caribbean.” (Well, that’s a good story for another time, but a big shout out to the Philadelphia Eagles.)  So, add The Croods to the long list of animated films I have suffered through over many movie nights.

We were merely 15 minutes into the movie with barely a dent in the popcorn, when I heard the father telling his family the story of Crispy Bear:

Once upon a time there was a bear that had one terrible problem; he was filled with curiosity. One day, Crispy Bear did something new and died, so never do something new.”

Really? Curiosity is a terrible problem? And if you do something new you will die?  Well, that got my attention. Perhaps I needed to pay more attention to the movie.

Eep, the daughter, goes on to say that the father of the Crood family established one rule they all must live by: Never leave the cave. I’m not sure what came over me at this point – both anger and passion – but I shouted out, “What a great organizational change management story! I need to share this with the team on Monday!”  The response from my children was more than appropriate: “Seriously? Dad, you are so pathetic.”

In my defense of turning a fun family night into an opportunity to teach a lesson at work, I thought about the message from the father (Grug) and the influence over the family.  Never leave the cave, curiosity is a problem, never do anything new or different, new is always bad, and finally the response from the son (Thunk), “I’ll never do anything new.”  Can you ever recall hearing this at work from a manager or perhaps a co-worker? I have, and unfortunately all too much.

In the spirit of full transparency, there was a time when we were afraid to leave our caves at Deltek. Until our former CEO moved our caves and relocated us to a new HQ with a 100% open floor concept, and no hard wall offices.  There was no cave to go back to! We started doing new things while embracing insatiable curiosity. Organizational change management is about changing behaviors, and this acted as the catalyst to a significant change effort for Deltek with regards to how we work together, support our customers and conduct business as a company.

Change is hard for people, and the safe, easy response is to stay in your cave. You can rip the band aid off like our CEO did and remove the cave all together, but that alone will not guarantee a successful change effort. Without writing a lengthy dissertation on the different change methodologies available to implement, the following are some simple steps to encourage behavioral change within your organizations.

It starts with the leadership.  Grug Crood, the father, sent the wrong message. You need to find the leaders in your organization that will set the vision, communicate effectively and lead the change.  Make sure everyone knows it is safe to leave the cave and what’s in it for them if they do.  Also, they need to know what the risks are for staying in the cave, such as being left behind.  Encourage insatiable curiosity across all facets of the organization.  Curiosity is what opens our minds, allows us to try new things, question everything and sets us on the course to becoming life-long learners.  Finally, recognize the new behaviors and celebrate the success that is the outcome from doing things differently.

This may sound very simple for something as complex and difficult as successful organizational change initiatives.  However, you need to start somewhere, so why not start by getting out of the cave?  I will not spoil the end of the movie, in case you have not yet picked this one for your family movie night, but the message is simple: Change is not easy and sometimes can be very scary. But at the end of all of it, you will be in a much better place.